Speak Consistently

How often do you speak in public? A few times a year? once a month? maybe on a weekly basis? or do you have the courage to find an opportunity to share your message every. single. day.?

The truth is, the more you practice the faster you will become the communicator and leader you aspire to be. There is no shortcut, no motivational and informative Youtube video, no amazing article (not even this one), webinar or workshop that will give you what you want and who you want to become. I’d go as far to say that the same goes for everything else in life.

But how do you get there? As Nike likes to remind us, you Just Do It™. Do it excited, do it scared, do it bad or good, do it poor or excellent, do it weak or strong. If your vision is clear enough and you’re acting with a sense of urgency (a hint of fun wouldn’t hurt too), you know you will get there someday and it’s just a matter or when.

Sometimes it may feel like we’re very far away from that goal, and other times, we feel like we’re already there. That feeling after an incredible speech, where everyone applauded and congratulated, you have finally become the outstanding speaker you always wanted to be. Good job. Though I would not fall under the illusion that your last best speech defines how your next ones will go. Sure, you have more confidence and courage. But what happens if you stay weeks, months or years without speaking? Will that skillset, courage and confidence still be there? I’m afraid not.

Think about when you go out for a run or any sort of physical workout. The first days are usually a struggle, difficult and uncomfortable. However, if you stick with it long enough and keep running or pushing the weights, eventually you will get better and things will get easier. What do you do next? That’s totally up to you. You can either repeat the same distance, sets, reps and weights OR you decide to move the needle a bit further; one more mile, one more rep, or one more pound.

I confess that sometimes I run away from opportunities I know will help me become a better communicator. I see a chance to speak up in meetings but I dismiss it, I see an open slot to talk to a group of people but I think I’m not ready yet, I know what I want to say next but I don’t. This does not help, and actually only reinforces the idea that we can always easily escape from our fears. It is important to forget that there is an EXIT door and dash forward, every. single. day.

Grow with Your Club

My first Table Topics speech, I remember, only lasted 48 seconds without me knowing what I had said. Now I can take a deep breath, think for a little while before I start to speak, and try hard to squeeze everything into two and a half minutes. Very often I still lose my train of thought and mumble nonsense. Most of the time I think of a much better way to deliver the topic only after, well, I’ve delivered it. But the torch of my wish to grow has never been brighter.

I used to think that my own personal progress would be the single-mounted engine used to fuel my passion for growth, which, after all, is a personal issue. Not until I was elected Vice-President of Education in Buddies Online Toastmasters Club did I realize that I was partially, if not completely, wrong.

Why do you want to grow? If you randomly pick people you meet on the street and ask the question, you will likely get a thousand different answers. But if you do that across the Toastmasters landscape, you will most likely receive one answer or a few variations of it. For me, growth in the Toastmasters community means more confidence in speaking, better communication skills, and greater power as a leader. How I found these things relevant to my life is a long story I’d rather not disclose here, but they are universally essential to personal value as a function of success.

Over the past 22 months, I have made some progress in those areas – from a shy woman whose heart would race faster than a bullet train when she greeted her neighbors, to a club-level speech contest winner, and then to online club leadership. Indeed, I should feel proud of myself. I really do. But what makes me feel even prouder is when I see in our club another shy Muslim girl whose first Table Topics speech also failed to make to one minute, now speak with great confidence as Secretary in less than two months. Or that Chinese man who fidgeted and scratched his head when he first came to Buddies, now presides over the club with charisma and integrity. Or Mr. Monotone who used to have great trouble raising or lowering his voice, now delivers a speech with as much vividness as that of Christopher Walken acting out lines in Hamlet. Their notable achievements have filled in me with more joy and warmth than my own. They have become one of the reasons that I wish to go further on the journey of self-enhancement.

In a recent discussion with the other club officers, I proposed the concept of Three E’s:, Encouragement, Engagement and Empowerment. Individually as members, we wish to be encouraged, engaged, and empowered to reach whatever goal we set for ourselves on different paths. Of course we need an environment for personal growth. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s nothing personal when we join a positive community. Every one of us has the power to encourage, engage, and empower other fellow members by laying milestones for ourselves. The effect is compound. The environment makes us, and we make the environment.

So, it is important to grow yourself because, when you do that, the world will grow with you.

A few tips:

  1. Let the club officers know your needs and concerns;
  2. Focus on your goals;
  3. Be open-minded to new possibilities and opportunities for growth;
  4. Say to yourself “Yes I can” three times when you feel you’re losing confidence;
  5. Remember the Three E’s when you communicate with new Toastmasters and you may get a surprise from them.

Let’s practice these in Buddies!  Be there or be square!

The best evaluator there is on earth

By this post’s title, it can be easy to reject the idea of actually being THE BEST evaluator that has ever existed, or is there? I promise you, there is.

I don’t take this lightly, I’ve traveled to many parts of the world and met amazing communicators that were capable of giving incredible evaluations and feedback themselves, but I had the honor to meet the one and only personally.

This person is inarguably the most fluent, expressive, genuine and truthful evaluator that I’ve ever met. Be it a Toastmasters speech evaluation, general meeting evaluation, ah-counter, grammarian, you name it. This person is so incredibly good at it that CAN thrive in any evaluation setting. I’ve witnessed it and believe it or not, so have you.

– “Who is this person you’re talking about?”, You might ask. Well, that person is YOU. Yes, you are the best evaluator there is out there, and whether I know you or not, I am still 100% certain about it.

The fact of the matter is that, while you’re watching a speech presentation, observing a piece of art, movie, musicians, or whatever it is. You have, at least internally, your own perspectives and ideas of how that “thing” made you feel, what you took away from it and what did you like and dislike about what you just saw or heard. The challenge though, is having the courage to put it out there into the wild and let it be; messy, too negative, too positive, too nice or too harsh.

Whatever is true for you, is what it actually is, and that’s a feedback worth giving. Express it truthfully, authentically and leave it up to the receiver to decide what to do with it. It’s not your task to protect and be responsible for the receivers feelings on whether you felt like the speech was “boring” to you, or “the best piece of information you’ve learned today”. It’s all feedback and very valuable. You are the audience and the speaker needs to know about your reality, so they can really improve at a deeper and more significant level.

Have you ever heard or given evaluations that felt too artificial, overly rehearsed or maybe too generic? How helpful was it really?

There is no right or wrong answer when you’re evaluating someone, it’s all about how the speaker made you feel and what caught your attention and what sincerely did not.

Are there structures for evaluating? You bet, and there’s plenty of really helpful resources out there including official ones from Toastmasters International, that can provide you a decent framework for evaluating someone. But the main thing you cannot learn from it is how to speak honestly and authentically from within, while you were listening to someone else.

So, I insist. YOU ARE the best evaluator that has ever existed. Let it all out and watch people around you grow exponentially. It’ll be easier for you and they’ll appreciate you more.