So how do I segue from adventure racing to public speaking? Comfort zones! I think pushing myself until hallucinations set in probably counts as pushing beyond ones comfort zone. Similarly, signing up for a public speaking group and, of course speaking in front of that group is, for me anyway, once again jumping into an endeavor with which I am not the least bit comfortable.
Part of it is need based (you know, the whole book publishing thing will require some public speaking comfort) the other is challenge based. I like seeing how far I can push myself.
So last night, I presented my first speech (called The Ice Breaker) The topic: me. Easy, right? Who can't talk about themselves for four to six minutes? Hell, I dated a girl that talked about herself for four to six hours non-stop!
I had a plan. I had the structure laid out. Tell something about my history, something about my family and something about my passion. So far, so good, right? For my history I would share a funny story about my father so the audience would get a feel for my upbringing. I talked about my family -my daughters, my wife. I had several visual aids to keep the audience engaged as well as give me helpful notes. What my evaluator missed (sorry Tony) was, on the back of virtually all of my props were written notes (a trick I learned in college of all places). The audience is none the wiser and you don't spend your time as the speaker flipping note cards. Needless to say, the prop notes worked well.
The final piece of my speech was about my passion -writing. Always looking for a comedic edge, I decided to briefly discuss marketing then over-play it by literally taking off my clothes...well, sort of.
I spoke about how, if I truly wanted to pursue my dream as a writer, I would have to thrust myself into the marketing aspect of publishing. With that, I un-zipped my sweatshirt revealing this gem...
I wasn't done...not even close. I dug into my cache of props and removed a huge copy of my logo (also plastered with notes) and threw it up on my easel.
By this time I saw the yellow WARNING, you're about to run out of time card go up. I knew I should have wrapped up but I thought, it's my first speech, I prepared all these props so I might was well use them and take the time penalty. So out they came.
I was seriously considering having 'models' stroll in at this point wearing shirts from my store but, at the last minute, decided that my daughter's giant bear was much easier to work with, I could fit it in my duffel bag, I didn't have to deal with his agent (my daughter didn't know I 'borrowed' him) and I didn't have to buy anyone dinner. Everybody wins!
So somewhere between the bear and the baby alive (yes the one that will crap out the special food you feed her) the red sign goes up and I know I'm over time. I quickly displayed my magnets, bookmarks and stickers, then handed out my cards (a very cost effective marketing tool BTW vistaprint.com), which, of course are marked with my website and release date (this could have waited until after the speech, saving time) and concluded my speech. I actually said 'thank you', which I'd just finished hearing was a no-no for speakers because it is the audience's privilege to listen to you speak, but I got flustered and rushed when I ran over on time so my conclusion wasn't as crisp as it should have been.
I sat down feeling dejected. Had I set up earlier, my prop use would have been smoother, I felt as if there were parts when I wasn't speaking clearly and I know I used the word 'uhm' on several occasions. The rest of the speakers did their presentations -all of which were incredible (making me feel even less confident) then we had a break. During the break, I received a handful of compliments (to my surprise) but I attributed them to simply being nice.
Then came time for the evaluations. This is why Toastmasters is such an amazing organization. I, being the first to speak, was also the first to be evaluated. Every evaluation I've seen at Toastmasters (this was my fourth or fifth meeting) has always been positive, constructive and complementary. Mine was no different. My evaluator managed to lift my ego back up to status quo in under three minutes. The evaluators always, without exception, draw attention to the positives of the speech -an excellent way to boost morale. The criticism is never harsh and always constructive. By the end of the evaluation, I was proud of what I had accomplished and was looking forward to the next speech.
Toastmasters is a great way to speak in front of a group without worrying about the cut-throat environment that is typical in the workplace. The people are kind and helpful and friendly. Although I'm just getting to know them, there are more than a handful I know I would enjoy introducing to my family over a nice dinner -it's that kind of group.
I have the whole thing on video -haven't watched it yet and I'm not sure if I will share it -perhaps. Last night was a great experience and I look forward to more. Now I have to pick a topic for my next speech...hmm.
As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my re-vamped website.