As some of you may know, I’ve been wanting to start writing my own blog for a while, so here it is! The catalyst for me doing this now is probably Toastmasters, a public speaking club I’ve recently joined which has given me the space and confidence to speak about things I’m passionate about.
Toastmasters is a fantastic organisation that has clubs all over the world where people can improve their public speaking skills. Anyone can join regardless of their skills and confidence in public speaking – if you have the desire to improve you are welcomed with open arms. This is what I loved after going to my first meeting, and what’s more there was no pressure to speak or to join. I could even have been a guest for as long as I wanted.
I surprised myself at my first meeting back in November, which was different to the normal format as everyone had five minutes to prepare a speech and then those who wanted to could deliver it (normally people prepare speeches beforehand). As I wrote mine I wasn’t quite sure whether I wanted to go up to the front or not. When five minutes were up everyone gave their speeches and each time a speech ended I almost volunteered to speak next but waited long enough to see if anybody else would first.
Eventually, I was the only one who hadn’t spoken. If I wanted to speak this was my chance. So I stuck my hand up before I could stop myself! Now I had to deliver. As I started my speech, giving a brief insight into my life, I realised I had plenty to talk about (something my family realised a long time ago!) but in the back of my mind I was very aware of how I sounded to other people. Although I have a speech impairment I can’t hear it myself but I become far more aware of it when I’m consciously trying to speak as clearly as possible.
Suddenly, I realised I’d been speaking for over five minutes. I couldn’t believe I’d been able to find enough to talk about for that length of time. In Toastmasters every speech is evaluated and I was surprised to find that when it came to my evaluation I had come across as calm and confident. Even more surprising to me was that I had definitely been understood well enough for the evaluator to comment on the content of my speech.
At the end of the night, as in every Toastmasters meeting, there was a vote for best speaker. This was a night full of surprises for me as my name and the words ‘best speaker’ were then announced in the same sentence. I went to the front for the second time that night to receive a ribbon. I was slightly worried at first that I’d got the sympathy vote and that people were unintentionally being patronising towards me because of my physical disability and speech impairment. However, I realised that people didn’t have to vote for me and therefore felt that their votes were genuine.
I went home with a great sense of achievement and feeling very enthusiastic. I realised that there was nothing stopping me from joining Toastmasters and exploring the possibilities of public speaking for me.