I am writing this post while in Vermont, but you are probably reading this post when I am in Miami. This is because things are crazy again.
I have been doing a lot of speaking over the past year. I have been, obviously, speaking to groups about Modern Persuasion. I had a virtual book club meeting with a club in Tennessee about a week ago. I am going to be speaking to a group of people in Miami on Sunday. This is not the only speaking I have been doing. I have been speaking about libraries, Wikipedia, and Bullet Journaling recently. After every event and session, I always get someone who tells me that I’m such a good speaker. Yes, I have put just as much time and effort into becoming a good speaker as I have put in to becoming a good writer. I am always looking to improve my skills too. What have I done? Well, let me share my journey with you because the speaking and writing development have followed similar paths.
Most of this started in Middle school when I was in a magnet program in Miami that had me focused on speaking and writing skills, but it was in 2004, as an adult, that I found my way to the two programs that would shape my life right now: National Novel Writing Month and Toastmasters International. Today, I am going to tell you about Toastmasters and why it made me a better speaker.
To be clear, I love talking and I love talking in front of people. If you have met me and don’t realize that then that’s probably because I am new to a situation and learning the rules. Most people join Toastmasters to get over their fear of public speaking. Not me, I went because I struggled to focus as a speaker. Yes, public speaking requires focus and knowing your message. Why am I so good at speaking: because I am happy to talk and I know what I want to say. I don’t memorize a speech, I know what to say because I know my topic. I could be in a classroom talking about doing research, standing in front of 100 people talking about Wikipedia, or before a group of 10 women who just read my book. It doesn’t matter, I speak what I know and I spend a lot of time finessing the speech. It means that no two events are the same, even if I am speaking about the same topic. I know about how long it will take me to give a specific speech or workshop. I know what I can cut out to make it shorter and what I can add to make it longer.
These are the things that Toastmasters taught me. I quickly made my way through their basic program. It was 10 skill building speeches, designed for novice and nervous speakers. My problem was focus for all of them. I could talk forever, but limit me to 5-7 minutes? I couldn’t do it and I always ran over my allotted time. Then I learned more about organizing, much like organizing your writing. With 5-7 minutes, you can make 2-3 short points about your topic. So, if I can share only 2 brief things, what do I want to say? After a few years, I could do it. Even today, I can do a lightning talk on a topic. I can even answer questions on the fly with little prep.
Why? Because Toastmasters taught me.
I obviously can share more. I have always loved sharing Toastmasters. If you see me speak and I seem pretty good at it, you know why. If I don’t seem pretty good at it, then I didn’t prepare correctly or don’t know the topic well enough. In the comments, tell me if you are interested in learning more about Toastmasters and what I learned in the program.