I attended my first Toastmasters meeting about 14 years ago. In fact, I attended three of them…with my good friend, Laurie, in Rochester, MN. She told me I should join Toastmaster’s. She told me it would be good for me. She told me I NEEDED to do it because I was going to publish books one day and then I was going to need to do public speaking. But the idea of getting up in front of those people and giving a speech (or worse…doing the “table topics” thing)…I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t ready for Toastmasters.

Let me tell you how bad my fear of public speaking used to be. When I was in college, I chose to take a C in my experimental psychology class because I refused to present my experiment to the class. I did the experiment. I did all the work in the class (except the class presentation thing). I had a solid A in the class (I had almost all A’s in college…for me, a B was rare)…but the professor wouldn’t give me my A unless I presented my experiment to the class. I refused. I got a C (the only C I ever got in college).

I’ve gotten over some of that. I do actually speak in public now. I even enjoy doing school visits (I think of it as “chatting with kids about writing” rather than “giving a presentation”). Talking to librarians and other grown-up people (like I’m going to be doing next week in Orlando) is a little scarier than going into a school…but I can do it. I’ve come a LONG way…

But I want to do better. I’m very shy and self-conscious…it’s not easy for me to get up and talk. But I’ve learned that “shy and self-conscious” sometimes looks “cold and unfriendly” in other people. Do I sometimes appear cold or unfriendly???

My friend lskeers joined Toastmasters a year ago. She just walked into a group she didn’t know and joined. When she told me that a couple weeks ago, I thought, I’m going to do that! But then I didn’t…

And then this weekend I heard a speaker who…was a very nice person and I’m sure she knew a lot about her topic, but she was not a good speaker. Maybe she wasn’t feeling good, I don’t know. But all of a sudden I worried, what if I look like that when I get up in front of people??? I just decided if I’m going to do public speaking as an author, I owe it to my audience to put as much effort into learning to do it well as I put into learning to write well. So…I’m joining Toastmasters…I just attended my first meeting last night. (Preteen, who is on the Knowledge Master quiz bowl team at his school wrinkled up his nose and said, “Toastmasters? Is that like trivia about toast?” Ha ha…what a funny guy!) Anyway…it looks like a good group. Really friendly and supportive people. And since I have been doing some public speaking, I’m in a much better place for getting involved now than I was 14 years ago. I CAN DO THIS!!!!

Toastmasters

14 thoughts on “Toastmasters

  • October 26, 2006 at 12:26 am
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    I used to be terrified of speaking, too. It took years to gradually gain confidence as a speaker — and I have been told Toastmasters would help me learn more about being a speaker. That’s great you’re joining that group. I’ll be eager to hear how it goes.

    LJS (who actually LOVES to speak now but can always improve…)

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    • October 26, 2006 at 2:22 pm
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      I definitely feel I’m at the right place in my life to do this…I know I can get up in front of a group (that was a huge hurdle)…so now I’m ready to learn to do better.

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  • October 26, 2006 at 2:03 am
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    Good for you! Bet you’ll get some helpful tips. Back in 1995, when I was first published, I was TERRIFIED of public speaking. I took a class at Boyds Mills with Peter Jacobi, and it helped a lot. Now I rarely get nervous!

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    • October 26, 2006 at 2:24 pm
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      Peter Jacobi teaches a class in public speaking??? I heard him at Chautauqua (I think)…WOW! When I think of the best speakers in children’s literature, three people come to mind: Bruce Coville, Richard Peck and Peter Jacobi! All three have big booming voices that I don’t imagine I’ll EVER have and a real commanding presence at the podium.

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  • October 26, 2006 at 2:21 am
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    You said:
    And then this weekend I heard a speaker who…was a very nice person and I’m sure she knew a lot about her topic, but she was not a good speaker.

    I thought the same thing! Well, unless you’re talking about ME! But if you’re talking about the person I think you’re talking about, I felt bad for her. Super sweet, but not…dynamic, I guess is the word. Maybe we should bring a video camera to the next conference and have a workshop on public speaking. THAT might be interesting….

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    • October 26, 2006 at 2:32 pm
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      Uh…no. I definitely was not talking about you. I felt bad for her, too. I ACHED for her because I could see how painful it was for her.

      The very first time I spoke at an event (a MN SCBWI event…) I practiced with a video camera over and over. I wouldn’t even let my husband be in the room when I replayed the tape…I learned a lot…

      I would like to see our group do more sessions on improving ourselves as speakers…I used to really dig in my heels and say, “No, I’m not ever going to have to speak.” But really, if you want to write for children, it’s hard to build a career if you’re not willing to speak.

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  • October 26, 2006 at 3:03 am
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    good for you!

    I can’t say enough about my Toastmasters group! Yeah, I walked in cold turkey because I wanted to conquer my fear of public speaking. Many members aren’t knee-knocking scared of public speaking but just know they can be more charismatic speakers. The first speech is the “icebreaker” and you just talk about yourself for 4-5 minutes. Sounds easy, huh? I forgot to breathe and almost hyper-ventilated but I got through it. I’ve been going almost a year now and although I still get a bit nervous and talk too fast, I feel SO much better than I ever thought I would! In fact, I’ve discovered I’m a bit of a ham… And it helped me in all social situations. Before I’d try to blend into the wallpaper. But now? It’s hard to shut me up! And although we are all there to improve our speaking ability, we laugh for a solid hour so it’s not as serious as it sounds.

    Keep us posted on your progress!

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    • October 26, 2006 at 2:36 pm
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      Re: good for you!

      I’m not knee-knocking scared anymore (I was…for a good portion of my life). But there’s A LOT of room for improvement.

      I’m guessing I talk too fast, too. And not in the intentional controlled way Bruce Coville does it. I also have a feeling that the first couple of times I do table topics I’m going to run short on time because I’m not going to know what to say.

      When I saw you two weeks ago, I could tell how much Toastmasters had done for you. I could see it in your face every time you talked about it…you enjoy it! You’ve gotten really comfortable with yourself as a speaker. I WANT TO BE LIKE YOU!!!!

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  • October 26, 2006 at 3:31 pm
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    public speaking

    Maybe we should do a network meeting on public speaking or just an informal get-together to talk about ways to improve our speaking skills. I’m still in the “learning stages” but have forced myself to get out of my comfort zone. And honestly? It’s been fun. Conquering a fear — or at least taking a bite out of a fear — is quite liberating!

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    • October 26, 2006 at 10:26 pm
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      Re: public speaking

      Conquering fear IS liberating….I can now drive in Minneapolis…by myself. (Still working on driving in snow…)

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  • October 26, 2006 at 4:03 pm
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    I guess the only problem with offering a workshop like this is that the people who need it most might be afraid to sign up. šŸ™‚ But it’s certainly true that we can’t improve if we don’t jump in and try. A workshop would be a good starting point.

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    • October 26, 2006 at 10:25 pm
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      I think Linda’s idea of doing a network meeting or informal get-together is a good one…keep it cheap/free. We don’t necessarily need to bring anyone in…we can learn from each other. Though I have to say I’m a lot more nervous doing my presentation in front of people I know than I am doing it in front of complete strangers…but maybe that’s what I really need? Teachers and librarians just say, “nice job” or “that was really interesting”…I need somebody else to really “critique” my school visit presentation and tell me how I can improve it.

      Reply

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