Last night I attended a meeting of the Rockingham Toastmasters Club. My first Toastmasters meeting in over a year.
Yes you read that correctly – My first Toastmasters meeting in over a year!
The last time I attended a meeting was 13½ months ago when we were at Grafton in the northern rivers region of New South Wales. I was fortunate enough then to attend the last meeting of 2014 at the Grafton Toastmasters Club, so I guess it was fitting that last night was the first meeting of a new year.
. . .
I must admit, I was a little nervous. Public speaking is a skill that (for many) requires practice, and with no opportunity to practice, I believed I’d become rusty. For the most part, Dean is the only person I have to speak to, and he “Yes Dear’s” his way through most of our conversations.
I believed I and would ‘um’ and ‘ah’ my way through anything I had to say last night. In fact, I truly believed if I was asked to say anything, I would completely fall over myself, rust and all.
As luck would have it, I was selected as a Table Topics Speaker.
Table Topics is perhaps the most frightening and challenging aspect of any Toastmasters meeting. It tests your ability to think on your feet and spontaneously create ideas whilst adhering to the speaking standards imposed by Toastmasters – a structured delivery encompassing an introduction, a body, and a conclusion, with a smooth transition in between – and to do so in a time of 1 – 2 minutes.
A mini speech in other words, albeit delivered extemporaneously.
But I’m being too serious here. Table Topics is a fun way to practice impromptu speaking skills, and having responded to the question (or scenario) posed by the Topics Master, participants then receive feedback from the Table Topics Evaluator.* The aim is to provide each participant with some positive feedback, with a point for improvement and a final word of encouragement.
The Table Topics Evaluator looked at me and said “You’ve done this before haven’t you?”
I politely smiled and nodded.
I was rather proud of my ability to muster my thoughts and deliver a mini speech with nary an ‘um’ or ‘ah’ uttered. I had a great opening, a (somewhat ok) body and a powerful conclusion. I was told my vocal variety was wonderful and body language complementary to the message I was conveying. I was told to watch what I do with my hands (I’d clasped them once or twice), and was told my use of humour was refreshing to say the least.
And I must admit, I wasn’t in the least bit nervous. My stomach was devoid of the army of butterflies that normally take up residence prior to delivering any speech, impromptu or planned.
I’m not sure if it was speaking in front of strangers that made me relaxed – perhaps it’s my new lifestyle. Either way, it felt good, really good, and I guess this means I’m not so rusty after all.
* In Toastmasters, feedback is called evaluation, and it is the heart of the Toastmasters educational program. Everything you do in Toastmasters is evaluated where you are provided with