Tips on how to begin at a Toastmasters Club
Everyone in a Toastmasters meeting was once at the level you are now. The environment is friendly and supportive, and the self-paced programme allows you to build confidence with each speaking assignment.
A typical club has between 20 to 40 members who meet either weekly, biweekly or monthly. An evening meeting normally lasts around 90- 120 minutes.
There is no instructor in a Toastmasters meeting. Instead, members evaluate one another’s presentations, pointing out the strengths and suggesting improvements. This feedback process is a key part of the program’s success. Members also give impromptu talks on assigned topics, conduct meetings and develop their leadership skills.
Members learn communication skills by working through manuals such as the Competent Communication manual, a series of 10 self-paced speaking assignments designed to instill a basic foundation in public speaking. There are then 15 Advanced Communications manuals to choose from, covering areas from humorous speaking to Speeches by Management.
One thing that you'll love at Toastmaster meetings is the applause. At first you'll be applauded for your effort; later you'll be applauded for your skill.
Gestures, Get Moving!
Let go of your stiff death grip on the lectern and learn how to make your speeches interesting through body language.
The human body contains more than 700 muscles, but few of those are used by speakers – except when using their arms and fingers in a life-preserving clutch of lecterns and laser pointers or frenetically clicking on PowerPoint slides. Speakers tend to focus most of their efforts in search of the perfect word to illustrate their precious points, despite overwhelming evidence proving that, in fact, our bodies speak louder than words.
Your effectiveness as a speaker is directly related to your ability to invoke emotion and interest through the use of non-verbal communication. Your listeners judge you and your message based on what they see as well as what they hear. In public speaking, your body can be an effective tool for adding emphasis and clarity to your words. It’s also your most powerful instrument for convincing an audience of your sincerity, earnestness and enthusiasm. Whether your purpose is to inform, persuade, entertain, motivate or inspire, your body language and the personality you project must be appropriate to what you say. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” So be sure your appearance, posture and attire is appropriate as well.
Here’s how you can incorporate appropriate body language into your speeches:
Start with eye contact. Being prepared – having control of your message – is a prerequisite for being able to project and establish a bond with the audience. Don’t just pass your gaze throughout the room; try to focus on individual listeners and create a bond with them by looking them directly in the eyes for five to 10 seconds.
Express emotion with your facial muscles. For inspiration, take a look at the The Human Face, a BBC documentary narrated by John Cleese of Monty Python fame, now available on DVD.
Avoid distracting mannerisms – have a friend watch as you practice and look for nervous expressions such as fidgeting, twitching, lip biting, key jingling, hands in pockets or behind the back.
Telling a story? Highlight the action verbs and look for ways to act out one or more parts. Speaking about marathon running? Run a few steps.
Stay true to your personality. Don’t copy gestures from a book or other speaker, but respond naturally to what you feel and say.
Make gestures convincing. Every hand gesture should be total body movement that starts from the shoulder – never from the elbow. Half-hearted gestures look artificial.
Vary your speaking position by moving from one spot on the stage to another. For example, walk to the other side of the stage as you move to a new topic or move toward the audience as you ask a question.
10 Tips for Public Speaking
Feeling some nervousness before giving a speech is natural and even beneficial, but too much nervousness can be detrimental. Here are some proven tips on how to control your butterflies and give better presentations:
1. Know your material. Pick a topic you are interested in. Know more about it than you include in your speech. Use humor, personal stories and conversational language – that way you won’t easily forget what to say.
2. Practice. Practice. Practice! Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using. Revise as necessary. Work to control filler words; Practice, pause and breathe. Practice with a timer and allow time for the unexpected.
3. Know the audience. Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.
4. Know the room. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
5. Relax. Begin by addressing the audience. It buys you time and calms your nerves. Pause, smile and count to three before saying anything. ("One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Pause. Begin.) Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.
6. Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualize the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.
7. Realize that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They’re rooting for you.
8. Don’t apologize for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.
9. Concentrate on the message – not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.
10. Gain experience. Mainly, your speech should represent you — as an authority and as a person. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. A Toastmasters club can provide the experience you need in a safe and friendly environment.
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