Toastmaster Manish delivered his personal best speech to date last Saturday for his project 10. He was generous to share his script with me, and here it is (unedited):
How many of you felt an anxiety when you were told to go on a stage and speak…
You are not the only one, I am an old member of this club.
Some of you will relate to this boy – Bright, knows his stuff, full of ideas but never raises the hand to volunteer to answer, in fact it’s the other way round.
I can really relate to this during my school days! A bit nervous on a big stage but great in an informal set-up.
I am not very close to you and I don’t know your motivations but going by the project, I am supposed to inspire you. Have to think about one common theme that binds all of us . What is that? Yes, all of us are here to get better in public speaking.
I am going to share with you some stories about me and hopefully you will relate to them.
1st story – setting is early year 2004, Citibank regional head office in London. After successful implementation of strategically very important project, I was chosen amongst the top officers to undergo senior level project management training in London. Towards the end, I was supposed to come forward and debrief the seniors and colleagues about my learning and accomplishment.
I stumbled, fumbled, mumbled….and just about managed to complete it (pause) to the dismay of people watching me. This happened when I was well into 8-9 years of my already successful career. I was posted to Dubai then. When I returned, my boss who was a Distinguished Toastmaster told me that I have the talent and potential, however my ability or inability to communicate on a big stage can be a blocker. He suggested that I join Toastmasters. I went, signed as a guest couple of times, fumbled in one the table topics and then never signed up. What you see, so many guests and new members here…they don’t come back. I did the same, this was an easy route – ESCAPE!
2nd Story –Singapore incident. Fast forward to June 2014, I was given a charge to head a big portfolio across multiple geographies – UK, India and Singapore. It so happened that one of the directors quit in Singapore and I was told to take over from him. He was heading a team of 30 people and he introduced me to the team and then looked at me to say a few words. I started confidently but suddenly felt a rush of blood and anxiety as I looked at so many eyes staring at me. I felt like a deer caught in the headlights – paralyzed with fear…and guess what – I blanked out. My colleague rushed and got a glass of water for me. That was one of the most embarrassing moments for me. I regained my composure and spoke coherently and confidently for 10 minutes about number of things. But I thought the damage was done. It took me some time to recover from the trauma and then I thought about my boss’s advice 10 years back – Toastmasters. I realized no matter how much I dislike public speaking, there is no escape from it. I will have to get comfortable with the associated discomfort and conquer the fear. So, I joined toastmasters in Nov 2014.
3rd Story – Toastmaster project 3.
I gave an ice breaker speech in Jan 2015, followed it up with project 2 in Feb. I made a good start and then in Mar 2015, during my project 3, half way down I blanked out. It was the exactly the same feeling…I did regain my composure and completed the speech after 15 minutes. I went back home scarred, wounded and disappointed and wondering why this experience keeps coming back and haunts me. Let me tell you by this time I could pull off most of the presentations with relative ease in the office environment which was a positive development.
Fast forward to 25-Apr this year, which was very recent. I met my new boss in India, he is British and group CIO for an important technology vertical. He called me over for a dinner, we had couple of drinks and we got along well. He suddenly looked at me and said, we have a town hall tomorrow and we have to address the entire offshore team, you are joining me on the stage and we will jointly address the crowd.
I could immediately see that my happy state of mind as a result of 2 pints was overtaken by the performance anxiety. I had never addressed a crowd of close to 120 people standing on a stage. He could sense my unease and he asked me if I was up for it. One side of me said, said no and wriggle out of the situation…I also knew that I will lose both – great opportunity and my boss’s confidence by saying no. I said yes…I will do it. I was quite nervous and got up at 5:00 in the morning and could not sleep after that.
However, as I came close to addressing the crowd, I was surprisingly calm. I had prepared in my mind what I had to say and told to myself, I have finished 9 projects in TM, I know how to do it. Just apply those principles. I spoke with full confidence, no nervousness and it was a huge moment for me, I felt so light. It was like exorcising the demons that have been badgering me for many years.
I thought today is the right occasion to share these stories and my test would be, if I am able to share these stories in coherent and confident manner, it should be an inspiration to some of you. From the stories main messages are – start early, persist and practise. I would like to close the session with this inspirational slide – Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.