A Figure Of Speech

by Grant Wragg

I’VE LONG HAD a desire to be better at public speaking.  Why?  A couple of reasons. Being good at presentations or talks opens up a large number of opportunities, in innumerable walks of life. Judging by how many people shy away from it, it marks you out.  Being it telling stories, arguing a case, sharing knowledge, or leading a team, increased confidence at public speaking has to come in useful. But its also something that appeals in itself.  I can see it being a platform for my voice (arf!) – work or otherwise – in the future.  There’s been little scope for speaking in my professional life thus far, be it as web developer or camera assistant.  I’ve done a Best Man’s speech and I’ve done a little Hospital Radio, but other than that there’s been no need.  I know that when I do step up, I’ve have a bad habit of ‘um’-ing and ‘ah’-ing throughout. Which really bothers me.  Not being able to communicate as you’d like is a source of frustration. It’s an itch I’ve long wanted to scratch.

With this in mind, I started to go along to my local Toastmasters club in recent weeks, becoming a full member of Capital Communicators (or ‘Cap Comm’) last week.

Three speeches in, I love it.

First impressions were that it’s the largest group of positive have-a-go people I’ve ever met. By definition, this is a group of people all of whom want to put their hand up and speak, rather than be ‘happy’ with sitting, watching and commenting. Which is rare.  They put themselves up for failing in front of others they sometimes don’t know especially well. There is a very positive atmosphere. As soon as I walked in, everyone was very friendly, keen to speak to everyone else – you soon realise everyone’s in the same (or similar) boat.  From confident members with numerous years under their belt, to inexperienced and shy speakers, everyone’s trying to test the boundaries.  One thing everyone has in common is the desire to get better. Better at communicating.

Each meeting runs in the same format, run by those that have volunteered roles (Toastmaster, Evaluators, Timer etc). These not only require speaking in front of everybody as everyone else – but have responsibility for that area of the night.  Without correction.  This is a defined aim of Toastmasters, to not only boost the members’ confidence in, and standard of, speaking, but also encourage members to lead in a forgiving, positive atmosphere.

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