Let’s face it, there’s a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to public speaking and presentation skills. In recent months, I’ve discussed a number of myths related to public speaking — ideas, stories and advice that either doesn’t help a speaker or can add unnecessary stress to speech preparation. While I feel a lot of people that call themselves public speaking experts propagate these myths as if they were gospel, there are several people out there that really know their stuff. So I’d like to introduce you to four of them that not only coach people, but also have excellent blogs about public speaking. While there are many others out that are also quite knowledgeable, these four are great people — friendly, helpful, approachable and people that truly do this to help others succeed.
In one of my “Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking” classes, an attendee asked me why so many speakers come across as smug. I hadn’t really thought about this so I opened the discussion up to the rest of the class and was shocked by what I heard – many speakers come across as condescending, arrogant, cocky and yes, smug.
I listened to stories about people that call themselves corporate trainers taking the attitude that they were not only the smartest person in the room, but the only intelligent person in the room. Anyone that asked for clarification simply “didn’t get it.” Others shared tales of speakers confidently contradicting themselves or speakers arguing with audience members that questioned them.
So you’ve got a speech that was a bit hit at your Toastmasters meeting and you feel it’s ready for prime time. So what’s the next step along the path to becoming a professional speaker? I recommend taking your show on the road and speaking to local service clubs.
Service clubs are a great way to test the waters for your presentation. They offer you a real audience that will give you real feedback. While Toastmasters clubs are a great venue for learning how to speak, the audiences at these meetings are quite forgiving.
Imagine walking into a conference room and finding a strange device. The device has a timer attached to it and three lights — red, yellow and green. You’ve never seen such a device before so you wonder what it is. Could it be a bomb?
Well a few days ago at a corporate building for Chase Banks in Columbus, Ohio, such a device was found and it caused quite a scare. Thousands of people evacuated the building while police investigated. What was this device? Well if you’re familiar with Toastmasters, you may recognize it as a set of timing lights for speeches. In fact, an employee of Chase hooked up the device to use to time a presentation. Who would have thought that someone simply trying to time a presentation could have caused such chaos?
As I mentioned in another post, I attended the 30th anniversary of the Toastmasters club I used to belong to last night. While you can outgrow the format that Toastmasters uses, you can never outgrow learning and at each Toastmasters meeting I’ve been to (with only a couple exceptions), I’ve learned something useful. Sometimes I learn something new about communication while other times I’ll learn about something unrelated to speaking through one of the speeches that night. Speeches are a true gem because everyone has a story to tell (a point I emphasize in the classes I teach). So have an open mind when you’re listening to someone talk.
Tomorrow I’ll be attending the 30th Birthday bash for the Toastmasters club that I was a part of for a little over four years. I still drop in when I can from time to time as the club constantly attracts nice and interesting people.
The club has changed significantly from the first meeting I attended in August of 2002. People have come and gone, yet there never seems to be a lack of enthusiastic people that want to help others become better speakers. I’m still friends with many of the people who were a part of that club when I first joined and it’ll be exciting to see some of them at the party.
I’ve had a lot of fun the last week or so with some of the dialogues I’ve had on this blog, via email and the various social networks. I’ve also been enlightened, shocked and learned a few things. So to wrap up this topic so I can move on to the finer points of other areas of communication and personal development, I want to provide you with my final thoughts on Toastmasters along with a brief history of my involvement with this great organization.
Why I joined: