April 10, 2007

I won a ribbon at Toastmasters!

Some of you might know that I've never been a Toastmaster. I came to public speaking in a roundabout way, first as an actor in junior high, then as a speech competitor in high school, then back to theater in college, then as an advocate, trainer and educator in the nonprofit sector.

For some 15 years, I was paid to go out into the community and provide education to youth and adults on domestic violence, healthy sexuality, media literacy, communication skills, and gender equity. I gave presentations, I led workshops, I trained trainers, I spoke on panels at statewide conferences. . . and I never heard of Toastmasters until a few years ago.

Well, tonight I attended my first Toastmaster meeting, as the guest of one of my clients. She was giving her tenth speech (a milestone in Toastmasters), and is preparing to take this speech out into the community, which is what we're working on together.

I enjoyed listening to the different speakers (and evaluating them!), and the club was friendly and welcoming. The structure and formalities and multiple introductions seem to take up a lot of time, when people could just be speaking, but those are the rules.

One portion of the Toastmasters meeting is devoted to "table topics" - club members are called on to speak extemporaneously for a minute and a half about a topic chosen by the, uh, table topic master?

She called on me and I got flustered. I don't like extemporaneous speaking (unless I'm already well-versed on the topic). Yes, we all have our weaknesses, and this is mine. Also, I get really red when I'm flustered or embarrassed (more on that later). Ugh.

But I also believe in pushing myself to do the things that make me uncomfortable, because that's how I get better as a speaker! I could have resisted, but that would have made me look like an idiot. And what kind of public speaking coach says no to an opportunity to speak?

I got up and spoke for my minute and a half about how, if I could travel anywhere and money was no object, I would travel all over the UK. I went on and on about how London is my favorite place on earth, etc. I don't really remember what I said, because as I said before, extemporaneous speaking isn't my strong point. I do recall the red light going on, and later hearing that my talk was actually one minute and 34 seconds. Oops.

I also learned, from the "ah" counter, that I didn't use a single "uh" or "um" in my talk. To understand the irony of this, you have to know that I don't care about "ums" and "uhs." This is one of the areas in which Toastmasters and I part ways about public speaking. But I digress. As usual.

At the end of the evening, votes were compiled in a couple of different categories including table topics. It turns out that, out of five table topic presenters, I was the winner! I even got a "Best Table Topics" ribbon.

The experience gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling toward Toastmasters. If only I had won the raffle. . .

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4 comments. Please add yours! :

Donna Toothaker - 1st VA said...

Lisa - how funny that I also went to my first Toastmasters meeting this week, too. I used my 'free pass' as a guest to avoid the Table Topics. But did volunteer to be an "ahs and ums" counter. There was only about 9 of us in this meeting - 2 of which were guests. So, will you go back?

Donna Toothaker
1st VA

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Hi Donna!

No, I won't be going back except to support a client. I'm not interested in joining, although there is a local group here for professional speakers, but besides that group, I can't see the point of practicing 5-7 minute speeches every week, when I've already been doing this professionally for many years. I'm actually going to blog more about this later.

How about you?

Rowan Manahan said...

I've sent many, many clients to Toastmasters over the years and found them an excellent resource for people looking to improve their public speaking on many levels.

I had the interesting experience of presenting to Ted Corcoran, who was global president of Toastmasters a couple of years back and got some lovely, and very constructive, feedback from him.

Great organisation, worth its weight in gold in these knowledge economy times.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Wow, the global president of Toastmasters - that must have been a little intimidating. . .

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