A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Step

I did an impromptu speech today. It was my first speech at the Toastmasters’ club meeting and it was made during the segment “Table Topic”.  This is the time when toastmasters volunteer to give a short speech on the spot based on the topic given by the person-in-charge of the segment for the week.

This week’s topic was “virtual tour”.

I was the last speaker.  I shared my experience on backpacking to San Francisco and Los Angeles. I could feel my heart thumping and my mind going blank fleetingly as my eyes tried to make contact with fellow members.

While I practised what I have learned and that is to have eye contact, I forgot about tracking the time as we were each given a time limit of 2 minutes and 30 seconds.  And as I scanned the faces of fellow toastmasters, I saw the “Ah counter” for this meeting, Lynn, recording down on the paper before her.  I must have used pause-fillers unconsciously.  Indeed, I had – one “uh”, five “um”s and one “yeah”.

Toastmaster of the day, Ramana, quoted a famous saying “A journey of thousand miles begins with a step”.  I think this best describes my journey as a toastmaster now.  I had shied away from making presentations all these years in school but here I was, mustering enough courage to volunteer a speech and one that was delivered on the spot.

Two weeks ago, I made a quantum leap in my life when I attended the toastmasters’ club meeting. Now, I have just delivered my maiden speech.  I look forward to the day when I can have a polished delivery, just like fellow member, Pradeep.  He’s really good, not only does he have no pause-fillers, but also changes the tone and volume of his voice as well as the length of pauses for effect and impact.

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Smooth Talking

It is high time i learned some new knowledge or skill, after completing my master’s programme five years ago.  I decided to pick up public speaking. A friend asked why I needed to when I was already speaking well.  I replied that conversation with acquaintances, colleagues or friends was different from public speaking.

I had Googled public speaking some time ago but the nearest toastmasters’ club – like many others – holds regular sessions on weekday evenings and therefore I have no choice but to rule this out. My working hours are irregular.

I had thought of attending public speaking workshops instead. Though workshops might be helpful, they are expensive, with some costing over $1,000 for just a two-day programme.

After putting this to the back of my mind for weeks, the thought fleeted across my mind again recently.  I am determined to act on it this time and I went through pages after pages of Google results. At last, there is a club that conducts its sessions on Saturdays and the venue where the meetings are held is just a few train stations away.

I had entertained the thought of not attending the session but I knew I must do it as it would also mean i would be overcoming my inertia.

The session was structured and pretty good. Nonetheless, I think the toastmasters would be able to improve more if there’s a professional public speaker around to offer feedback and tips. I see the sessions more for them to work on their guts, emboldened each time they speak in front of the nearly twenty toastmasters.

Among the speakers who talked yesterday, one had an impressive delivery and his oratorical skill reminded me of some lawyers when they argue their case. He told me that he had been into public speaking for 16 years but he had to unlearn in the sixth year what he had learnt in the preceding years, after going to the US for a contest.

I wish I wouldn’t need 16 years to have a delivery as slick as his.