Growing up performing in front of large groups of people never seemed to phase me. Music was one of the subjects I chose for my leaving cert for which I sung. In preparation for our practical the school organized a mini concert for younger years and the odd family members to attend. I remember loving the rush before stepping out on the stage and the relief after singing the last note. I often get the same rush when giving a presentation or making a speech.
I vividly remember a couple of weeks before starting my final year in college I was asked to give a presentation to incoming first years about the society I was involved with. For anyone who knows DCU it was in T101, a large lecture hall with tiered seating. The lecturer politely made an introduction followed by one of my peers kicking off the presentation. A few moments later he turned to me signaling that I was to take over. I stood there for a very painful 30 seconds before looking blankly at him to continue. I walked out of the lecture hall swearing that I would never let that happen again.
In the summer of 2013 I was lucky enough to get a one on one coaching session from Barbara Moynihan, MD of On Your Feet. By the end of the summer I was able to confidently give a 17 minute speech to a professional judging panel with 4 other society members.
I believe in my line of work it is important to be able to confidently present in front of your peers, colleagues, clients and strangers. I have found the more passionate or excited I am about something the quicker I talk, even my parents have difficulty understanding me at times. I am working on a really exciting project in work at the moment and get quite excited when bringing the team up to date. One member of the team tends to smile and nod, then if I ask a follow up question his reply without fail is ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t understand you’. For this reason I recently enrolled in Toastmasters. This is a global public speaking organization. The club I joined is small, with the recent attendance being between eight and twelve people.
The club runs for one hour every Tuesday night. There was a once off membership fee of $20 and then to enroll until September it was $30. The structure remains the same weekly, however, the roles change round depending on who volunteers. You have the toastmaster who leads the session, a person presenting the word of the day and another presenting the joke of the day. There is an opportunity for two people to present their prepared speeches and an opportunity for short 2 minute unprepared speeches. During the second half of the session we hear feedback on the prepared speeches, members vote on the best unprepared speech and we also hear from grammarian about how many filler words the speakers used.
I have volunteered to do a prepared presentation the first week in June. I am looking forward to that feeling I use to be so familiar with, the rush of excitement, that sigh of relief when it is all over and the sense of accomplishment. I hope this is the start of many more (hopefully successful) presentations, improving throughout the process and maybe in not so long that certain team member will be able to understand me, even through my excitement.