Becoming really good at public speaking requires some risk, but you have been taking risks all your life. When you were a toddler, you risked falling down when you took your first steps. You risk scraping your knees or falling when you start roller blading. You risk falling off when you start bike riding. You risk being rejected when you ask someone out on a date, and you risk getting into an accident every time you get into or drive a car.
If you gave up after your first fall, you’d still be crawling. If you were afraid to fall off your bike, you’d still be riding with training wheels. If you were afraid of getting into an accident, you’d never get behind the wheel of a car. And guess what, you’re still here – you’ve survived all of that. You’re a risk taker!! The greatest fear is that of public speaking and here you are – wanting to learn how to do it.
Do you enjoy watching figure skating? Now, you wouldn’t expect to be a world class figure skater the minute you put on a pair of skates, would you? No, you’d expect to have to practice for years before becoming that good. Nor would you expect to make the NHL without years and years of winter and summer hockey.
Do you enjoy watching racing? Would you expect to be another Mario Andretti the minute you get behind the wheel? Now, I will admit that there seem to be a few drivers out there who think they are Mario, but most people would expect to have to practice for years before reaching his status.
When you think of walking 25 miles, it seems like a long distance, but it is actually only putting one foot in front of the other a number of times and you know how to do that. It just takes practice to go the distance. It’s the same thing with public speaking. It just takes putting one word after another, and then practice to go the distance.
The key to getting up in front of an audience is believing that you have something to share with them that may make a difference in their lives – by entertaining them, warning them, encouraging them, or giving them direction or information.
The great thing is – you all do have something to say that people would be interested in hearing. Each of you has come through life in a different way. You may have encountered difficult circumstances and survived. Your experience could help someone else in the same situation.
If you remember jokes or enjoy telling stories to your friends, practice a little more and soon you can be telling your jokes and stories to large audiences. If you are really good at something, consider sharing the steps of how you got there. The personal connection with your audience is important. Talk to the audience as you would to a friend.
By following the steps outlined in the Toastmasters’ manuals, and with the encouragement of fellow Toastmasters, you can learn how to craft a speech and how to deliver it. You can learn how to use props, how to modulate your voice, and how to use words that your audience will understand.
You will often hear the words “stage time” used by Toastmasters. Stage time – that is being up at the front of the room giving a speech is the only way to get better. In order to be good at anything, you have to practice, practice, practice. Winston Churchill overcame a speech impediment to become a master orator. He had to practice for hours to deliver a speech.
You can get very discouraged if you expect to be as good as Zig Ziglar right away. But if you listen to his story, you will find that it took a very long time before he was able to do what he does so well. It took him 16 years from the time he decided he wanted to be a speaker before he made the “big times”.
The thing to remember is that the only person you need to compare yourself to is you. You are working for your personal best, so when you are preparing your speech and practicing, all you need to ask yourself is – is this speech better in some way than the previous one? Did I learn something new as I prepared for this speech? Did I learn something from the evaluative comments of others after I gave my last speech? If yes, then, that’s all you need to do. You can use what you’ve learned to make the next speech your best to date and then use the same process for each speech you give. Just take one step at a time.
Remember, public speaking is a skill, so anyone can learn to do it. You just need to take the risk to get up in front of people, be taught how and then practice, practice, practice. Then one day someone may watch you and say, “Wow, I wish I could speak like that.”
To your speaking success