June 14, 2005 > Say what?
by Linda Stone
Erik Johnson is obviously a golfer. As he confidently strode up to the podium for manual speech #8, Using Visual Aids, he carried two clubs in his hand. He turned to his audience and surveyed the room. Then he took one of his clubs and broke it over his knee, saying "How many people have thought of doing this to a club?" The audience laughed. Johnson went on to demonstrate golf swings, drew stick figures on a whiteboard, demonstrated proper golf swing techniques and quoted famous golfer Ben Hogan. If you weren't a golfer before Johnson's speech, you certainly wanted to find out more about it afterward. His enthusiasm was infectious.
Thus is the power of effective communication - persuasion. The ability to express ideas and thoughts is an essential life skill. But for many, the thought of getting up in front of a group of people and speaking is frightening. Studies have shown that public speaking is the number one fear, over snakes, tornados or flying in an airplane. This fear can strongly affect people's professional life and their prospects for career advancement. Some people have even left jobs or decided to forgo higher education due to this fear. All of this is an avoidable and unnecessary loss of potential for individuals and society.
You may think that you could never become a polished confident speaker, but the only thing that divides you from those who are, is experience. Daunting? Perhaps, but not impossible. You might be surprised how fun and easy it can be. As a matter of fact, a well-kept secret is that the more you do it, the more fun it is.
There are many ways to improve your speaking skills; you can enroll in a speech class, read books or join a club. One such speaking club is Toastmasters International.
In 1924 Dr. Ralph C. Smedley had an idea of forming a club "to afford practice and training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings, and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members." Since then, more than three million men and women have benefited from Toastmasters training in communication and leadership skills.
According to Toastmasters International, a Toastmasters club is a "learn-by-doing" workshop in which men and women hone their skills in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. A typical club has 20 to 40 members, who meet weekly or biweekly to learn and practice public speaking techniques. The average club meeting lasts approximately one hour.
Upon joining a Toastmasters club, members progress through a series of 10 speaking assignments designed to instill a basic foundation in public speaking. When finished with the first speech manual, members can select from among 15 advanced manuals to develop speaking skills that are geared to specific interests. They are: Public Relations, Specialty Speeches, The Entertaining Speaker, Speaking to Inform, The Discussion Leader, Speeches by Management, The Professional Speaker, Persuasive Speaking, Technical Presentations, Communicating on Television, Storytelling, Interpretive Reading, Interpersonal Communication, Special Occasion Speeches, and Humorously Speaking. Members also have the opportunity to develop and practice leadership skills by working in the High Performance Leadership Program and serving as leaders at various organizational levels.
There is no instructor in a Toastmasters club. Instead, members evaluate one another's oral presentations. This evaluation process is an integral component of the overall educational program. Besides taking turns delivering prepared speeches and evaluating those of other members, Toastmasters give impromptu talks on assigned topics. They also develop listening skills, conduct meetings, serve as officers in various leadership roles and learn parliamentary procedure.
The effectiveness of this simple learning formula is evidenced by the thousands of corporations that sponsor in-house Toastmasters clubs. These clubs serve as public speaking and leadership training workshops for employees. Every year, more and more business and government organizations are discovering that Toastmasters is the most effective, cost-efficient means of satisfying their communication training needs.
Toastmasters clubs can be found in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as in a variety of community organizations, prisons, universities, hospitals, military bases and churches.
Ten tips from Toastmasters for successful public speaking
Feeling some nervousness before giving a speech is natural and healthy. It shows you care about doing well. But too much nervousness can be detrimental. Here's how you can control your nervousness and make effective, memorable presentations:
1. Know the room. Be familiar with the place in which you will speak. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
2. Know the audience. Greet some of the audience as they arrive. It's easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of strangers.
3. Know your material. If you're not familiar with your material or are uncomfortable with it, your nervousness will increase. Practice your speech and revise it if necessary.
4. Relax. Ease tension by doing exercises.
5. Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and assured. When you visualize yourself as successful, you will be successful.
6. Realize that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They don't want you to fail.
7. Don't apologize. If you mention your nervousness or apologize for any problems you think you have with your speech, you may be calling the audience's attention to something they hadn't noticed. Keep silent.
8. Concentrate on the message - not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and outwardly toward your message and your audience. Your nervousness will dissipate.
9. Turn nervousness into positive energy. Harness your nervous energy and transform it into vitality and enthusiasm.
10. Gain experience. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. A Toastmasters club can provide the experience you need.
For more information on Toastmasters International visit www.toastmasters.org.
Below is a listing of Tri-City area clubs:
Citizens for Better Communicators Club
Best Friends Learning Center
42080 Osgood Rd., Fremont
10-11:15 a.m., Saturday
48720 Kato Rd., Fremont
12 p.m., Wednesday
301 Nicolet Ave., Fremont
7:00 p.m., Monday, except 3rd Monday
6300 Civic Terrace Dr., Newark
10:00 a.m., Saturday
6300 Civic Terrace Dr., Newark
7:00 a.m., Tuesday
Sun Smoothtalkers Club
SUN Microsystems, Inc. / Desert Inn Conference Room, #1511
7777 Gateway Blvd., Bldg. 14, Newark
12 p.m., Thursday
Union City Toastmasters Club
Union City Library
34007 Alvarado-Niles Road, Union City
7 p.m., Mondays
ICC ArtICCulators Club
555 Los Coches St., Milpitas
7:30 p.m., Thursday
LSI Speaks Club
1621 Barber Lane, Milpitas
12:00 p.m., Wednesday
911 Murphy Ranch Rd., Milpitas
12:00 pm, Thursday
Casa Azteca Mexican Restaurant
20 North Abel St., Milpitas
7:00 p.m., Mondays
A Cut Above Club
Christ's Community Church
25927 Kay Ave. (Corner of Calaroga & Kay), Hayward
6:30 p.m., 1st & 3rd Monday
Alameda County Public Works
951 Turner Ct., Rm 300, Hayward
12:00 p.m., 1st & 3rd Thursday