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This is a video of myself doing a presentation on my day of graduation from a self-employment course.

(It’s 2.5 minutes long. You can save time if you start the video and hit pause so it can download while you read.)

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” What this means is that a good portion of human communication takes place non-verbally. It’s not only about the words, but how you deliver them.

I am not an experienced public speaker. During the few times I have given a speech nothing influenced me more than the good mental attitude that came from being well prepared.

My first speech was at Toastmasters; The Icebreaker. I practiced until I had it memorized, pacing around my apartment in circles reading the speech out loud and timing myself. The icebreaker had to run between 4 to 6 minutes. I was a nervous wreck the entire day leading up to that moment. It was hellish!

I had a plan though!

Even though I had memorized the speech I brought two copies of it to the podium. I stood in front of the audience, my heart pounding in my throat. I looked down at the piece of paper I was holding and started reading.

Then I stopped, looked at the audience, waited and then said, “Oh what’s the use. I can’t do this!” I crumpled up the speech and tossed it over my shoulder. They looked stunned and I was extremely pleased. That impact helped me take the focus off myself and focus on the audience and their response.

My evaluation was positive: sincere, good gestures and pacing, excellent opening. One suggestion for improvement was to vary the tone of my voice. Hard to do when you’re choking on your own breath! I did appreciate their support. They wanted me to succeed and that made a difference.

In this video, again I was so nervous I could hardly breathe. What amazes me is that I didn’t look too nervous. I’d imagined I looked like an idiot, but when I watch the video I don’t think I did as bad as I thought I had.

First, a bit of background. In 2003 I was diagnosed with a gluten allergy, a condition similar to celiac disease.

In my case there was no damage to the intestinal wall, but the absorption of minerals had been affected. A bone density scan at age 40 showed that I had the bone density of a 60-year-old. After two years on the gluten-free diet, a follow-up bone density scan revealed an increase of 11%.

I decided to start a nutrition consulting business combining my credentials as a nutritionist and experience with the gluten-free diet. And so, GlutenfreeMe was born.

I also completed training as a life coach with the Coaches Training Institute because I wanted to offer coaching to support my clients with their new diets. The nutrition business was not successful. My business focus transitioned from consulting to coaching when I saw how powerful this process was.

In this video I am preparing a recipe called Chocolate Recovery Pudding, created by Brendan Brazier from North Vancouver.

This is the second half of the presentation. For the opening I playfully showed the audience the difference between how big my belly was before going gluten free and how flat it looked that day. This was not part of the planned speech but turned out to be a powerful ad lib. Again, it was an opening with an impact that helped me ease into the speech.

I don’t know how I managed to speak. I could hardly breathe and this is obvious by the lack of variation in vocal tone. My throat was dry and I was shaking. You will hear me say that I was shaking so much that I didn’t have to plug the blender in. All I had to do was hold it. Another successful ad lib. A good sense of humour is my saving grace.

I learned from both speeches that being well prepared supported me the most. I knew the topic well and had rehearsed.

Because I was well connected with the speech I could go with the flow and ad lib. It was easier to be spontaneous and natural. Knowing I was well prepared gave me more self confidence than if I was unsure of what to say or do.

Both speeches had a lot in common.

I was well prepared with a good opening and closing. I used humour, ad libbed, made good use of props and scanned the room to make eye contact.

Even though I had memorized and rehearsed the speech, I had notes nearby.

My vocal tone still needs work, but what I find interesting is that despite feeling paralyzed with fear, I managed good posture and use of gestures. This is the result of being well prepared, so well prepared that the speech became more a part of me than the fear.

The audience was rooting for me; they weren’t strangers. A suggestion in the Toastmasters Member Kit is to know your audience. Plan to be there early to greet the guests as they arrive. It is much easier than speaking to complete strangers.

And on that note, don’t be a stranger. Watch this short video and take your moment in the comment section below.

Tell me about your time in the spotlight or share about a time you faced your fear.

Do tell! Don’t be shy.

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