Last week, I shared my very first Toastmaster’s speech with you. This week, I going to tell you what it felt like for me to speak in front of people, and how I prepared.
“Here’s Gillian Andrews to give her very first speech called, Words.” I walked up to the lectern and shook Mr. Toastmaster’s hand. He asked if I’d like the lectern moved to one side and I acquiesced. I stood in front of my fellow Toastmasters with a little card in the palm of my hand with points on it in case I forgot the transitions in my story. I looked around the room to the expectant faces, took a deep breath, and began to speak.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE…:
I had practiced my speech for four weeks and felt I knew it well enough not to use my notes, but brought them to the lectern anyway for added insurance. I knew what it was like to forget the words you need, no matter how well you know your material. I remember playing the piano in front of an audience and completely forgetting what came next while my audience waited for me to figure it out. Silence filled the air as the clock in my head went tick-tock, tick-tock. My body heated up my face and I wanted someone to rescue me by starting the applause so I could go and sit down again. But, there was no stopping once you start a performance of any kind, except in practice sessions.
DIVE IN WITH CONFIDENCE, OR AT LEAST DIVE IN:
I decided to throw myself into the speech by adding gestures and changing the tone of my voice as warranted, despite the fact that it wasn’t expected in a first speech. No use going for half measures. I had decided that I’d had enough of being fearful, and was going to jump in a just do it to the best of my ability. And as a good friend said, “That’s all you can do at this moment in time.” So, despite the butterflies in my stomach, and the fear that I might forget parts of my speech, I decided not to focus on the negative, but to think about only what came next in the speech. The Ice Breaker speech is designed to well, break the ice, by introducing yourself to your fellow Toastmasters by talking about your life.
MAKE EYE CONTACT:
It surprised me that I was actually making eye contact with people. I thought it would be difficult to speak while people were watching me. It’s a good thing I’d had that practice speech with a few of the members the week before. That was harder for some reason. But it took the edge off for my actual speech. So when I dared to look around the room and saw them hanging on to my words, I was emboldened (a good Toastmaster word of the day).
…AND EVEN MORE PRACTICE:
To prepare to give my speech, I had practiced with many distractions: in the shower, while driving with the radio on, and while folding the towels, to make sure I would be able to say it without thinking. Then I needed to time my speech and keep it to 4-6 minutes by setting the timer on my phone. You see, not only would I have to look at the faces in the audience, but I also had to keep track of that little — actually it’s quite large, or seems so — yellow red and green light at the end of the table that tells me how much time I have left in my speech. It’s important to say what you need to say within the given amount of time. There’s nothing worse than losing your audience because you over speak.
Sometimes it’s easy to step outside yourself when you’re giving a speech, and think too far ahead of it, or let your mind wander to the negative: “Oh dear, I said that in the wrong order.” or “I wonder if anyone notices that I’m nervous?” I had to keep myself in the present and concentrate only on what comes next, and next, and next, until I came to the end: “I don’t know what the future holds for me, but one thing I’m sure of, words will be an important part of this woman’s journey.”
PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK:
Whew! I made it. Now I could relax and enjoy the rest of the meeting. I’d done my first Toastmasters speech. As is common when a Toastmaster gives their first, or final, speech, everyone gets up to applaud. What a lovely feeling. They really are with me every step of the way. These people want me to succeed, which takes some of the pressure off. Now, for my next speech, I’d like to talk about…