“Jewels at the Podium”


(Basic 09 – Persuade with Power / Competent Communication Manual, Jun. 27, 2006, ON Semi)


INTRO

Two weeks ago, a friend of mine, Alex, learned that I was working towards my CTM certification or Competent Toastmaster certification.  He also learned that I’ve delivered speeches in other toastmaster clubs with different audiences in different venues.  He was amazed!  He said “Wow, you probably don’t get stage fright anymore.”  Well, I thought about the question for a while and I answered.  “You know, actually, I still do.  I don’t think it goes away.  Stage fright only shows that you’d like to do well and care enough to deliver a good speech.  The key is to manage stage fright so you control it rather than it controlling you.” 

But I also wanted to think of real serious reasons that have been beneficial to me as a toastmaster in managing stage fright.  These gems of wisdom are what I call “jewels at the podium”.  And I’ve summarized them into 3 different action items.  Number 1 – Cultivate a spirit of volunteerism; Number 2 – Practice, practice, practice; and Number 3 – Always believe in yourself.

VOLUNTEER

According to Wikipedia.com, the fear of public speaking affects as much as 75% of all people.  It is generally the number one fear, even surpassing the fear of death.  One cause of this fear may be due to a bad speaking experience.  By that token, if you begin to have positive speaking experiences, then this fear should decrease.  Volunteering may sound radical, but the idea is to start small and then build upon these small successes.  Start with small groups and with topics that you are very familiar with.  Impromptu speaking in Table Topics is one good venue to strengthen self-confidence and quick thinking.  Instead of waiting to be called or praying in earnest that someone else gets called in Table Topics, volunteer.  The spirit of volunteerism actually means stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things.  This concept is not new.  It is in fact embodied in one of this company’s 5 core values.  And what might that core value be?  Initiative!

PRACTICE

If there’s one tip that motivational books will tell you, it is this:  Practice, practice, practice.  Saying it three times somehow underscores the need for adequate preparation.  This is where you run the whole process of learning to organize your thoughts, putting your ideas on paper, rehearsing the speech, eye contact, gestures, body movement, vocal variety and so on.  There is saying among actors in theater that “the hard work is in the preparation, the relaxation is in the performance.”  To them, the delivery is just a manifestation of what has been prepared beforehand.  Practice gains you mastery.  If you wait until the last minute, you will be more nervous.  The more you practice the more you will feel comfortable and decrease you anxiety.

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

One of the reasons we fear speaking is the fear of the unknown.  If you close your eyes and visualize yourself successfully delivering the speech, you will literally trick your brain into believing you’ve done it before and you won’t feel as nervous.  That’s the power of visualization.  Believe in yourself that you will do well.  Create a mantra – “I will do well”.  Repeat several times just before you stand to speak.  And chances are, you will do well.  Just remind yourself that you have something valuable to say and act confidently.

Recently, I was invited by Doctor Noy to deliver a speech over at the HSBC Call Center in their Toastmasters club.  Those in the audience were senior officers of HSBC – vice-presidents, assistant vice-presidents.  Now, as we know, those who work in call centers are trained to become very fluent in English.  And they’re not only fluent, they’re trained for specific accents as well.  In that particular session, there were two demonstration speeches.  The first one was delivered by the 3rd highest ranking toastmaster in the Philippines, Gina Mapua.  She was very good.  She wowed the audience and the audience was visibly impressed.  The second speech was mine and when my name was called,  I suddenly felt the pressure.  Gina’s speech was simply a tough act to follow!  I just said to myself “You wrote this speech and rehearsed it many times.  Share it with the audience.”  And then I rose and delivered my speech.  I missed some of the transitions and after my speech, I was upset and thought that I could have done better.  To my surprise, however, the audience liked it.  Apparently, whatever nervousness and anxiety I had clearly did not show at all.

CONCLUSION

That event taught me that experience, preparation and the proper mindset collectively helped in managing my stage fright and nervousness.  And how to ensure that?  By following the 3 gems of wisdom, the jewels at the podium – Volunteering, Practicing and Believing in yourself.

You’ve been a wonderful audience!  Toastmaster of the Day.