Con­quer the world, one room at a time

Beat­ing a fear of public speak­ing opened doors, writes Ayla God­dard.

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER -

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 toast­mas­ter­

Ayla God­dard never backed her­self as a public speaker – un­til she joined Toast­mas­ters.

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