First Time: Speaking Outside The Club

2-28-2014_005Having volunteered to give the Test Speech for Haymarket Toastmasters’ evaluation contest on 3rd  March, it came as something of a surprise to find myself being asked to give my speech at Capital Communicators (CapCom) on 25 February!

It turned out that through some complex trade-off (OK it wasn’t that complex – Haymarket had found a speaker, whilst CapCom had not) my services had been bartered like “a poor man’s Juan Mata” – moved from club to club in search of a first team game.

After shouting down my first thought on being asked to move my speech forward almost one week – my default position of “I’m going to say no. I’m can’t get prepared in time” – I was left with a double challenge. Firstly I was going to be speaking to an audience of relative strangers and secondly it was CapCom!

The first issue is an interesting one.

I’m sure to a greater or lesser degree we all join Toastmasters to get over a fear of public speaking.  Then, as our Toastmasters journey progresses, we are presented with a bit of a paradox.

We begin to get more comfortable at public speaking, but the particular “public” we address at our regular meetings also becomes less daunting. This is particularly true in a club as welcoming as Waverley, where we can soon find ourselves addressing a group of friends.

Of course, it’s great to be in an environment where we can try things out and not be petrified of failure. But if there is a downside then it is that it might not prepare us as well for the “being thrown in at the deep end” scenario that is certainly my biggest fear.

The second challenge?

Well you see, CapCom and I have some history.

Around 8 years ago, when I was really struggling to come to terms with public speaking anxiety, a well meaning friend directed me to a CapCom meeting.

I wasn’t in a particularly good place at the time.  And it’s probably fair to say that I left their meeting place, the Theosophical Society in Great King Street, that evening convinced that the prospect of me ever being able to deliver the sort of speech I had witnessed as a guest that night was about as likely as me being asked to take the place of Robbie Williams in the recently reformed Take That (it was 2006 remember!).

Anyway, the point is that I was being asked to return to the site of one of my lowest moments in the very long chronicle that has been my phobia of public speaking.

Of course, a lot had changed since these dark days: not least, over 3 years, I had experienced the best Waverley Communicators encouragement, helpful evaluation and occasional cajolement.

Much to my surprise, although still nervous at the thought of addressing an audience of relative strangers, I found myself excited too.

I was repeating a speech I had delivered at Waverley a few weeks before and that I felt could have gone better on the night (don’t you always?).

It was a speech I had taken a while to put together and the chance to dust it off and re-cycle it with, hopefully, a bit more polish was a great opportunity.

On the night, the members at CapCom was very welcoming and did their best to put me at ease.

My speech went reasonably well. It was still far from perfect, but then I did hear Chris Evans of all people philosophise only this morning that “perfect is the enemy of good” – and I get his point.

In my opinion, the opportunity to speak to a different audience is a very important step in the Toastmasters journey and one that should be grasped when it presents itself.

Guest post written by David Dick

Member of Waverley Communicators, Edinburgh

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