Conquer the world, one room at a time
Beating a fear of public speaking opened doors, writes Ayla Goddard.
Inever thought I’d enjoy public speaking and use it to improve my career. Ten years ago, I was fresh out of high school and ready to take on the world. But taking on a room full of strangers? Forget it.
We’ve all been there. Sweaty palms. Heart racing. Stomach doing somersaults. Sound familiar?
You, like 75 per cent of the population, have probably experienced some level of glossophobia. But you will probably have to present something at some point in your life and be able to communicate your ideas to a group of people effectively.
When I started out in retail I had an opportunity to share what I knew about wine in the form of educational tastings.
I had knowledge, ambition and passion behind my material, but delivering to 10 strangers was a daunting prospect.
I realised I would benefit from being able to conduct presentations with poise, confidence and conviction.
I decided to join a Toastmasters club. It gave me a platform to practise with familiar faces, in a supportive environment that provides feedback and encourages selfimprovement.
Now I’m an account manager for a wine distributor. Talking to a room full of strangers is enjoyable, without even the slightest hint of dread.
Speaking effectively is an invaluable tool whatever field you specialise in.
❚ Know your content: You can set yourself up just by knowing your subject well and revising the important parts of your speech. The less you use notes, the more easily you will be able to talk with authority on the topic.
❚ Eye contact: A key step to make sure your audience is engaged with your message.
❚ Slow down: On stage nerves can make you talk much faster than you realise. Enunciate your words clearly and use pauses to think about your next point. This also gives your audience time to digest what you have said and adds impact to your delivery.
❚ Voice variation: This applies to the rate, tone and volume. Hand gestures and eye contact will become a natural integration once you’ve got this mastered.
❚ Thrive off the energy: When the nerves come, use this energy for an animated expression, voice and big gestures. These are all powerful tools to stimulate your audience, hold their attention and drive home your message.
❚ Have fun: Now that you have the basics covered, relax and enjoy it! Injecting humour and emotion will create a reciprocated positive ripple across the crowd, which is a highly rewarding experience for the speaker.
Do I enjoy public speaking today? It can be a laugh but not in the way I imagined.
The experience can not only be fun, but a skill with which to build confidence, experience personal growth and drive your own success in career endeavours.
Ten years ago I thought I was brave enough to take on the world. Now I can also take on talking to a room full of people. Take that, glossophobia.
There are Toastmasters clubs in 18 regions across New Zealand. Find one near you at toastmastersclubfinder.org.nz.
Ayla Goddard never backed herself as a public speaker – until she joined Toastmasters.