Apr 21, 2020
For three years, my older daughter participated in the annual Lion’s Club speech contest for high schoolers. She didn’t win, but she gave two really great performances out of her three speeches. Public speaking outside the confines of classroom presentations were something she'd never done before this contest.
Looking back on it, I am reminded of the importance of public speaking. Taking the time to put together your thoughts, then standing in front of a group of people and speaking those thoughts out loud takes effort. Considering that public speaking is the number one fear for people – higher up the scale than even death – getting through giving a speech is really quite an accomplishment.
What can feeling comfortable speaking in front of a group do for you?
Well, there’s always having more confidence in one-on-one conversations, like at networking events or asking your boss for a promotion or raise.
Giving a toast at a wedding? Now you can do it without feeling terrified for every moment of the day before; or, worse, yet, having to get drunk to do it.
You will have the ability to ask questions with greater poise and clarity at departmental or company meetings.
Your vocabulary will improve, making you sound more professional.
All-in-all, there is no down-side to being a proficient public speaker.
Not comfortable just getting up and speaking? There are coaches who can help, but my best recommendation is to just join a Toastmaster’s group in your area. These groups are usually a good mix of amateur speakers and people who just want to feel more comfortable expressing themselves verbally. Occasionally, there’s even a professional speaker in the mix. If you attend the meetings on a regular basis and allow yourself to take advantage of the many opportunities available at each meeting to speak, you will improve and feel more confident in no time at all!
(While I am a fan of Toastmaster's as a venue to practice and improve public speaking skills, I must also say that I do think it has limitations and that there is always at least one person in every group that just takes it too seriously. Relax, learn, have fun and you will see improvement. Don't worry about the "progression" because you will learn that moving up to "higher levels" has more to do with how many speeches you give rather than true improvement.)
And, yes, I know that a group setting will probably have to wait until our social distancing phase relaxes. There's no harm in using some of your stay-at-home time to start looking into your options and maybe even start planning a speech or two!
Go, ahead, try it. If a 16-year-old can do it and feel good about herself, so can you!