Since I often speak on panels and give readings, I decided to join Toastmasters at work. It’s pretty cool. The formality of the organization has a certain antiquated charm, and my fellow Toastmasters are into it in a sort of laid-back way. Everyone wants to get better at formal speaking, but no one wants to be too geeked out about it. And make no mistake — Toastmasters is geeky. That antiquated charm with the rules and the customs (like shaking hands to transfer control of the meeting between speakers) are exactly what Toastmaster members get geeked out about. It’s like a comic book convention with far less cosplay.
Today I gave my first speech — the “icebreaker.” My topic was “The care and handling of the writer.” I had five to seven minutes and I went over. I had only a few “ums” and other stumbles, which was great, because my goal was to keep the “ums”, “ers,” “sos,” etc. to the single digits.
Everyone laughed in the right places, and although I did go over by about 30 seconds it was partly because, as the timer person said, I didn’t take the laugh breaks into account. I have mentioned before that I have super supportive coworkers, so the ones who didn’t know me were excited about me being a writer, and two people mentioned that they wanted to talk about getting started as a writer themselves and were sorry that my speech didn’t include that. I loaned Gordath Wood to one of my coworkers.
Since we are supposed to speak from notes, rather than from a complete text, I don’t have the exact contents, but in a later post I’ll write about what I talked about.
I’m glad I did well. I do have to speak in public fairly often, and being able to speak extemporaneously is important. Ever since joining Toastmasters I’ve been appalled at how often I say “um.” Really, if I want anything out of this endeavor it will be to eliminate that particular hesitation word.
Toastmasters is important for another reason. I am serious about stretching myself professionally, and I could tell by how reluctant I was to sign up and commit to this that it was going to be worth it for me. I am basically lazy unless I push myself or someone else does, and it really isn’t that attractive to have to be pushed to do the right thing when you are an adult.
So. At the next convention — in two weeks! — I will get to show off my new speaking confidence.
Or I’ll just fake it like I always do, but it’s the next best thing.