Experience of a first time speaker…

“Speakers who talk about what life has taught them never fail to keep the attention of their listeners.” ~ Dale Carnegie

This quote perfectly embodies what I wanted to do in my very first speech at The Toastmasters Club of Great Lakes, Chennai.

We do an MBA for a variety of reasons. Many of us want to try a new and more lucrative profession. Some might want to remain in the same profession and leverage their MBA to get into a more responsible role. A few might be thinking about starting their own ventures. But there is a common string that binds all these roles and professions together. That is the ability to become an effective leader. And one needs to be an effective communicator to be an effective leader. With the same thoughts and aspirations, I joined Toastmasters club at Great Lakes, Chennai.

I started developing my first speech from the first week itself. There are ten rounds of speeches which one needs to deliver in order to gain the title of “Competent Communicator”. The first one is an ice breaker speech. The green speaker gets to know where he stands by delivering this speech. There are no special requirements for this CC1 speech like stage usage, gestures, voice modulation etc. One simply needs to keep his timings between four to six minutes.

Usually it is preferred that one should talk about his life so far, about his or her aspirations, or even about a one- off incident. Doing this serves two purposes: it’s relatively easy to memorize and it lets your fellow Toastmasters know about you from the beginning of your journey. I chose to talk about my life so far. I conveyed to my audience: my birthday, my likes, my choice of entertainment, some of the events of my life etc. Goal of my speech was fulfilled. By the way, a one page script is usually enough for a four to six-minute delivery.

The experience of holding an audience and being on the stage is unique. For the people like me, who are not acquainted with the stage, it feels somewhat strange that your audience has ears for you in that duration of the speech. This fact dawned on me and this is where I began to shake slightly! Fortunately, the environment of Toastmasters is very conducive and positive. We all take interest in what the speaker is saying and we also make sure that he/she receives a positive active feedback from us during the speech. Speaking in front of a mirror several times and verbalizing the speech in front of friends helps a lot! It helped me to pace my speech effectively. I also got tips on emphasising on certain points during my speech.

It is convention in Toastmasters that when a person delivers his first speech, entire audience gives him/her a standing ovation. And what a moment it was for me! Seldom have I felt so elated in my life.

After all the speeches and evaluations, there is a voting in which everyone attending the meet votes for the best speaker of the day. To my good fortune, I was voted as the first of the three best speakers (in total there were eleven).

Apart of oratory skills, one can also develop leadership skills at Toastmasters. There are many roles in a meeting. Each of these roles require you to either arrange and structure something or to deliver some feedback. When you are in a feedback giving role, you feel the onus to correctly and actively assess your charge. I believe it is a great learning experience.

All in all, after four weeks of attending Toastmasters, I feel it is one of the best decisions of my life.

Learning is a never-ending process, and there is no limit to how much better one can become.

So, dear friends, expand your horizons!