Toastmasters has allowed me to do a myriad of things I previously would not have even thought about doing. My latest thing? I spoke at a Rotary Club.
I had delivered talks as a representative of Yorkhill Children’s Foundation, that is how I will have been remembered ‘Representative from Yorkhill Children’s Foundation’ – so to talk as ‘Laura Wallace’ about something Laura Wallace had trained in was nerve racking – will I perform well enough that I will be happy that my name will be associated with the talk? And at a Rotary Club – where many speakers deliver talks as part of their paid employment on a daily/weekly basis? The nerves were shattered!
So, I prepared and practised, I even managed to get to Thistle Speakers and get some evaluation which helped. But oh my goodness – the Rotary Talk was getting closer!
The night of the talk came and the nerves went through the roof. ‘I now hand over to Laura Wallace who will be talking to us about Laughter Yoga”. Argh!
So… how did it go?
I started ok. I forgot a few things but refrained from uming and ahing, although I might have looked to the skies a few times for the answers. I mixed up my facts a little, but I had 20 seconds, 2 minutes, 20 minutes and 2 hours to work with so I am forgiving myself for this. And then…. I came into my own and did really, really well! Once I got through the initial nerves I performed as I would have liked to have. Clearly, slowly, looking round the room and using gestures as I would have wanted to see myself.
During the speech I was evaluating myself as I went along. With a busy mind like mine it’s all too easy to do that. It was not until I got home afterwards I was able to realise what I had achieved. I had achieved more than I was giving myself credit for.
I opened by getting the audience to do some deep breathing before getting them to introduce a ‘ha ha ha’ as they breathed out. Then had all the audience stand and shake each others hands whilst ‘ha ha ha’ing. Many thought it could not be achieved at a Rotary Club! The audience all got involved with both the laughing and the shaking of hands.
I had felt all eyes on me and some of the members who had met me previously had looks of pride in their eyes. This was what put me off a little but I regained composure and I could see everyone hanging on my every well-paced word. Towards the end I asked for 4 volunteers. So many people had said to me, “You’re going to ask the Rotary to do what?” I asked for four volunteers. The audience had already experienced a little of the odd concept of Laughter Yoga so would anyone come forward to participate in front of everyone? I got four volunteers! I unveiled the task before them – they were going to participate in my short version of Tam O Shanter, Laughter Yoga style! My four volunteers joined me in fulfilling the required actions of my short version of Tam O Shanter. We had our arms in the air clasping imaginary drinks as we drank at the bar and hahahahaha’d. We galloped on our Grey Mare Meg, holding the reins and Hoho, hoho, hoo, hoho with more vigour that I expected. We danced in the woods with gleeful hee hee hee hee hee’s and then we ran after Tam at the end, ha ha ha ha ha.
When question time came I was not sure what to expect as I had never spoken on the subject. I had only ever lead groups in laughter. I was asked questions I could answer before the President stood up whilst the questions were still coming. He said to me, “Laura, no speaker has ever elicited this response from the club before. Very well done!”
Then I realised, by engaging the audience, by being passionate, by ensuring my message was clear and in an orderly fashion, I had mobilised my audience. It is easy to count your ums and ahs. It’s an easy measurement. 3 ums in 2 minutes = 1.5 ums per minute. 20 ums in 10 mins = 2 ums per minute. It’s harder to measure engagement, interesting facts, order of the speech etc. Toastmasters allowed me to move an audience. It allowed me to take information on a lesser known subject, chose the important parts, arrange the information and get people interested. I joined Toastmasters aged 22 and could not look a person in the eye. At 27, I am transformed speaker and a transformed person.
Today I have an email asking me to return to the club to speak on a partner’s night. I cannot wait!