Here are a few ideas gleaned from my 35 years of Toastmasters experience.
Start by speaking about your passions. My first 10 speeches were on compost. Share your passion with others. This will improve your confidence because you are sharing a subject with which you are familiar and one that matters to you. It may be your favorite hobby, volunteer effort, or anything else that ignites your spirit. If you love doing something, it is much easier to talk about. My family finally convinced me to stop talking about compost at the dinner table. I believe you get the point; a passion is what you like to talk about, anywhere, but maybe not at your dinner table.
Begin speaking outside your club to “get uncomfortable.” Attend another Toastmasters club and offer to give a speech. The trick to self-confidence is, it is created one step at a time. Start stretching. Try new things. Learn what works, and what doesn’t work as well. Think outside of the box. Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Junior Achievement, Career Days, middle schools, high schools, and churches all need speakers. The more you speak, the better you will speak.
Test new vocal varieties. Have fun with your voice. Discover the difference in breathing from your throat and your diaphragm. Try fast, slow, high, low, and then pause a little. Sometimes a strategic silence is better than a well-crafted sentence.
Slowly try out purposeful gestures, not many, but a few. Once I gave a speech that included “A positive attitude is like putting on armor to go against things that can pull you down to your knees.” I acted like I was putting on a coat of armor and when I said “down to your knees,” guess where my knees were? They were on the floor. Purposeful gestures add emphasis and visual reinforcement of your message. If your audience can imagine your story, you have placed this in their brain. They will never forget it. If you story has a point, they will never forget your point either.
Create personal stories by observing life. Find things that are funny and write them down. Expand your reading list; if you read two books, you will know more than 90% of your peers. Toastmasters is a non-fault lab; Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before he created a light bulb that worked. As you create stories, take pieces and add them to your speeches. Move them around until you feel comfortable with how they fit. As you select different manuals, add a few topics to each project. Start looking for topics using “radar.” Radar finds planes because it is looking for planes. If you look for a speech topic, you will find one. Find a mentor, not just for your first three speeches, but for a lifetime. Now that you are an expert, give back. Share knowledge with those who need help. This way, growth will never cease.
By Jodie Sanders