I spent three-quarters of my life hiding from speaking publicly and a quarter chasing it. I remember why I hid. It was painful.
I know what its like to be frozen with fear, to feel the blood rush through my temples and start pounding a deafening beat in my ears, to see my mind go into a white fog, to be so frustrated that the words get stuck on the end of my tongue.
My fear of speaking my mind, of being laughed at, at being called a fraud made me play a much smaller game than I know that I am capable of. I have no regrets. It was who I was but it is not who I am now.
I've gone from starting life as a stutterer to becoming a professional speaker.
Now I see two groups of people. One represents the old me. The other the new me. They live in two worlds. Within Toastmasters and outside Toastmasters.
Toastmasters has been instrumental in me becoming a good public speaker. I've been there for five years and it's not until now that I am starting to publicly promote it. Why?
Because of the army. In the army I literally saw people's confidence change. I saw boys become men in front of my eyes. The change happened because they turned up every day for the program. They had to of course. You don't just walk away from the army. It's amazing what sticking at something can do for you.
It's been a high bar I've measured other organisations against.
Now I add Toastmasters to this exclusive club in my mind. I have seen people with little confidence enter the room. The effort it took for them to take this scary step is obvious. It's written all over their face.
Some leave. Some return. Some stay for a year or two. Those that stay are wonderful to watch. I watch them change. At times I even feel like a proud parent knowing that your child is confident enough to make it in this world alone.
The key here is stay for a year or two and participate regularly, chipping away at your lack of confidence. Just like you can't learn to swim by reading a book, you cannot become a confident speaker by taking a one-off speaking workshop. You need to stand in front of people and speak, regularly. Simple as that.
And here's the rub. I know of no other place than Toastmasters that gives you the opportunity to find, on a regular basis, an audience to speak in front of. Toastmasters has many strengths. This, in my mind, is the greatest.
Had I really understood the benefits, both professionally and personally, of being able to just stand up and speak, I would have done it earlier, but, I didn't know, I wasn't looking and maybe someone told me but I didn't listen.
Regardless of your age, if you are reading this, put your listening ears on and take note. Easing yourself into being a better speaker is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It ranks up there with not smoking and getting sleep.
Come along and get a taste at the Future Leaders Conference in Brisbane on 8th Feb 2019. Say hello. I'm there. I'm speaking. Show this flyer to your boss. It's a small investment in time and money for much bigger returns to their business.
Confidently presenting yourself on video is now an essential career skill.
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