Speaking Skills
September 14, 2004 11:34 PM   Subscribe

Questioning the relevance of Toastmasters International, what is a good way to refine personal speaking?
posted by the fire you left me to Human Relations (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you mean that Toastmasters didn't work for you, or are you asking if Toastmasters might work?

How is personal speaking different than public speaking?

What elements of your speaking do you need to refine?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:05 AM on September 15, 2004

Oooh, not to thread-jack, but I need help with this too. I get nervous speaking in front of people, get cotton mouth, talk sloooowly, and completely lose track of what I need to say. Sometimes. Other times, I'm fine, and even charming/funny. But I need to be dependable in such situations as part of my job, and its embarrassing and bad when I'm not. I am with you, TFYLM. (I went to one TM meeting years ago, and would go again if I can find the time & if it would help.) Help!
posted by onlyconnect at 12:30 AM on September 15, 2004

Like croutonsupagreak, I'm not sure about your reference to Toastmasters. I've found it immensely helpful. Their youth leadership program gave me a great deal of confidence when I took it in high school and also instilled in me the art of speaking in complete sentences that do not include the words 'um', 'like' or 'you know'. Since I've joined the organization as an adult, I've been working primarily on the leadership side of things, but have been using their techniques to aid me with some difficulties I have in interpersonal communications, particularly related to providing feedback to my peers (most specifically, my tendancy to be hostile and surly when confronted with actions or questions I think are stupid). I've also found that the seminars at our district conferences are outstanding, and I've picked up some new techniques related to critical thinking and team building.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:27 AM on September 15, 2004

I'm a Toastmaster, I got into it because I am not comfortable speaking in public. It's helped me a lot. You only get what you put into it though, if you go to Toastmasters to get better at public speaking but are a wallflower there then you'll never get better.

That's the situation I was in but some of the exercises like table topics helped me break past that. A topic would be introduced and I'd be asked point blank to give my views on it.

Then I started doing more talks, listening to the advice of my peers and have become better at it.

Now if I could only learn small talk.

Hey, and for 42 bucks per year (36 of which go to Toastmasters International) you'll never get a higher benefit/cost ratio.
posted by substrate at 5:38 AM on September 15, 2004

I am a professional teacher and a theatre director, so I speak in public and also help other people do so. I'm also extrememly (almost pathologically) shy. But I don't appear that way when I'm in a professional capacity. In fact, people are generally surprised to find that I'm not gregarious when I'm at a party or a bar.

To me, the secret is to have a clear goal and to be well-prepared.

If you know the point of your speech and you know all the items you need to cover, then those are things you don't need to worry about. You want to get to the stage where you're worrying about as little as possible.

It's hard to make yourself NOT be nervous, but you CAN make yourself NOT worry about what you're going to say next. Disasters tend to happen when you're both nervous AND unsure what to say next.

People tend to confuse the two. They think they forgot what to say because they were nervous. But it's VERY possible to be nervous and still know what to say next, and if you say what you're supposed to say, you probably won't look nervous. And after a few successful speeches, you probably won't BE nervous.

People don't prepare because it's not fun. It's easier to read self-help books on confidence than it is to memorize a speech. But you'll get further by memorizing the speech. It's not fun, but there's a HUGE payoff.

When I'm in a play, I make sure I know every line backwords and forwards. My goal is to have memorized the play so well that when I need a line, it just pops into my head -- the way my wife or best-friend's name does. If I have to think about what-my-next-line-is for even a fraction of a second, I haven't memorized my lines well enough.

When I'm teaching, I don't memorize a script, but I DO memorize the points I'm planning to cover and their order. Sometimes I need to refer to documents or illustrations. I have these well organized and easy to access at a moment's notice.

Some people might feel that this sort of memorization will lead to a rote, mechanical delivery. If it does, you haven't memorized well-enough. When I'm 100% sure my friend's name is John, I'm free to play with his name: Jonny, John-John, Jack, John-e-o, etc. It's when I'm still feeling tentative about it -- when I fear I might forget it -- that I feel I must stick to his exact name. In other words, you can break the rules (improvise) when you KNOW the rules.

Try to fix all other controllable factors. You can't control your nerves; you can't control the audience; but you CAN control the way you're dressed, the way your papers are organized, whether or not you have water, etc. Control these things.

If you make a mistake or get off track, just be honest. Say, "Oh, I forgot to mention something" or "You know, I'm going to backtrack and cover that point again, because I left out something really important." It's even ok -- when you're a beginning speaker -- to say, "I don't speak in public much, and I'm really nervous, but I'm going to give it a try." People WANT to feel you are human. But they also want to feel that you're willing to throw your self in there and try hard. So the "I'm nervous, but I'm going to try" is a good double message.
posted by grumblebee at 6:07 AM on September 15, 2004 [5 favorites]

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