The Shyness Project

Archive for the category “Month 6,7, 8 Public Speaking”

Bringing the Story Game to Table Topics

4th night of Toastmasters  (6-29-11)

On this night of Toastmasters, I was the table topics leader.

My dad kicked off the meeting with two jokes.  He told a golf one and used his arms and gestures to make the joke more animated.  He didn’t look at any notes and I was impressed considering he told me he hadn’t practiced much.  Then the wordmaster explained the word of the evening, languid, and then my name was called to lead the table topics.

I felt nervous the moment I entered the building, and even more nervous as it got closer and closer to my time to stand up before the group and give my little introductory speech.

But I smiled, shook Marcy’s hand, and stood at the podium.  I started off by saying I hoped this wouldn’t be a languid table topics discussion, which got some chuckles.

I said what I had planned to say without looking at my notes, I smiled, I used my arms, and even leveled my voice a little.  The big smiles of my fellow toastmasters put me at ease and comforted me.  Beforehand I had tried to imagine this going well and people enjoying my table topics, and I think that helped.  I practiced in front of the mirror quite a bit too, and once in front of my mom before I left.

I explained what the purpose of table topics is (to practice impromptu speaking) and introduced my topic.  I told them how earlier in the summer I had gone camping and was introduced to a game my friends called “the story game.”  I explained how it worked in detail and summarized it once more to make it as understandable as I could. (*Basically, you’re given three words selected by the audience and have to make up a story using them.)  I then called Houston up to be the first speaker.  She did a great job as she always does.  I then called up another person, one by one, until I had pretty much called on a majority of the group.  If people weren’t called on to speak I at least included them by asking for the three word suggestions for the speakers to use, which got everyone involved during the 15 minute segment.

After each speaker spoke, I led the applause, shook hands with them, picked another person, and asked the audience for three more words.  Everyone really got into it and they all did wonderful.  Some stories made the group roar with laughter and I felt like everyone was really enjoying themselves.

Afterward during the break and at the end of the meeting, I was told that I did an excellent job and that I looked very comfortable up at the podium already.  I received big smiles and Larry (our new president) told the group that was a very innovative table topics, and that he’d never seen anything like that done before.  (Wow!)  He said it was a lot of fun and it involved everyone in the group.  Others told me that they thought that table topics was a lot of fun too, and I was happy to hear that.  I didn’t even know if I should use it for a table topics or not because I didn’t know if telling stories would count as practicing impromptu speeches, but I’m glad I went for it anyway.  I was very happy with myself afterward, and I volunteered to be the jokemaster for the following week.

My dad and I were made official members this night too.  We were presented with a toastmasters pin, card, and certificate.  Everyone had to approve our joining and they all clapped for us at the end.  Several said “Welcome, new members”, with a smile.  I am now an official Toastmaster!

Impromptu Speeches- Table Topics

3rd Night of Toastmasters (6-22-11)

Guess who just gave an impromptu speech?  This girl!

On this night of Toastmasters each person picked for Table Topics had to go up to the podium and draw a piece of paper out of a jar.  Each paper had a few lines from a song on it and the speaker would have to make up a speech out of it on the spot.  I averted my eyes at first to avoid getting called on, but eventually gave in after I saw several others do it, including my dad.

My dad got a song lyric about dying and started it off by saying “I’ve never thought about dying much.”  He went on to talk about how everyone dies eventually, but he knows that he has a good daughter who will make him proud and already has.  He talked about how my mom’s parents aren’t doing well right now and are in the hospital, and all his talk of death made me tear up a little.  I thought “great, now I’m going to be all emotional before it’s my turn to speak.”  He spoke some more of me and said that I’m very smart, hard-working, and compassionate, and that he knows that I’m going to do some great things in the world and make a difference.

My dad and I have more of a relationship where we do more things together like tennis and softball but don’t talk much, so it was touching to hear him tell everyone how proud of me he is and how he thinks a lot of me.

When my name was called (gulp), I got up and shook the Table Topics Leader’s hand and reached into the jar for a piece of paper.  The first one I pulled out was Spanish lyrics from “La Bamba”, which didn’t trigger anything in me so I returned it exclaiming that it was written in Spanish which got some chuckles.

I reached in again and got a lyric that had to do with a poor boy and drugs or something, so I put that back and reached again.  I then got one about falling in love and put that back…

I could feel the apprehension in the room as I rejected lyric after lyric.  I began to panic and realized that the others were probably getting fed up with me and that I was wasting time.

Luckily, I pulled out one lyric supposedly from something like “dreaming on a river” that had a line about dreams.  I figured that was good enough and I could come up with some sort of speech about that on the spot.

I read it over once more as I approached the podium.  I then looked up, and greeted everyone with “Fellow Toastmasters.”  I read the portion of the lyric I was given, which was 4 or 5 lines maybe.  At first I was just reading it but then realized what I was doing and made sure to look up.

I talked about how this song lyric reminded me of how I am undecided about my major and career path.  I pulled everything out of my head that came to me while standing up there before the group.  I talked about how I wanted to do something that I was passionate about and don’t want just another job.   I told them how two of the careers I’m considering are occupational therapy and international business.     I expressed how I feel conflicted in whether to devote my time helping the people in poorer countries through volunteer work only or if I should try and incorporate that into my job as well.

I believe I used some ums, ahs, and spoke a little fast at times and didn’t sustain eye contact with each individual as long as I would have liked to have, and I basically repeated one of the things I said when talking about passion and making a difference.

After I finished, I paused, and said the typical closing “Fellow Toastmasters”.  Everyone clapped and I sat back down in my seat, feeling a little embarrassed because I didn’t think I did that great.  I did feel like I was just talking to them rather than giving a “speech” though, so at least I didn’t feel too nervous up at the podium.

At the end of the meeting the Toastmaster made a special announcement that my dad and I did an excellent job and said “let’s hear it for their first time up at the podium!” Everyone applauded and beamed at us, and I blushed and smiled, appreciating the support.

At the evaluation for the winner of table topics, Marcy won (who I voted for too), though somehow my dad and I got a lot of votes too and it was close!  I thought that was crazy, how would people vote for me when I’m up against so many amazing speakers?  The evaluator told me I did a great job to my surprise (I was nervous for the evaluations even) and only had a couple of “so’s” apparently though I thought I did more than that.  He said I did an outstanding job for a new member.  After the meeting was adjourned, Marcy complimented me and said I looked so relaxed and comfortable up at the podium giving the speech.  I was delightfully surprised and said really?  I told her that I was glad it came off that way because I thought I did really bad and was nervous for it.  She said I did excellent.  She was interested by the fact that I want to make a difference and that I’m interested in two very different paths like occupational therapy and international business.  She told me that she wishes she had done more research before deciding on a field.

Larry told me I did a really good job and I told him that I didn’t think I had the best organization but he said he thought it was very well organized and that he thought it was great how I turned a line into a speech about college and careers.  He said he voted for me!

Rebecca came over and talked to me a while about careers and majors and how it’s best to explore and take different classes too.

It was a great success, and it wasn’t so bad speaking in front of the group, especially now that I feel I’m among friends.  I volunteered to lead the Table Topics discussion for the following week, and everyone smiled and seemed happy that I was jumping right in already.  My dad volunteered to be the jokemaster too after he saw that I was going to do something.

Night Two of Toastmasters

After I went to Toastmasters for the first time on June 1st, I missed the next meeting because I was out of town camping with friends. I went the following week on June 15th though. After the first meeting and discovering how scary and difficult this was going to be, I was nervous to come back. What if I got called on as a guest to do a Table Topics impromptu speech?

When we arrived at the meeting, we were a little late so my dad rushed in without me, and I took a little longer and came in a little later. When I walked into the room, Marcy was excited to see me and said “Oh yay Brittany!” with a big smile. Carol said “Hi Brittany!” with a friendly smile, and I felt welcome and was pleased that they remembered my name. Marcy also noticed that I had cut 10 inches off my hair since the last time I came to Toastmasters, as I donated it the day I left for camping. (see new profile pic) She said it looked very cute and I thanked her.

The meeting started off with introductions and the word of the day, and then the jokes. Then, it was time for table topics. I was more nervous than the last time because I knew there was a possibility of getting picked.

As a guest to Toastmasters, participating is optional. You can sit there and observe all you want before you’re ready to give it a shot. I had been planning to agree to do it if I was asked this week, but luckily for me the Table Topics leader ran out of time and I didn’t have to be faced with the question of whether I wanted to try or not.

This table topics was a role-playing scenario where you played a dentist I believe and were told that you had to confront an imaginary client about something. It seemed really hard and I honestly couldn’t think of anything to say since I didn’t really understand the scenario and was glad I wasn’t picked. The people who were picked did a really great job though and many of them had us laughing really hard. After that, there were two speeches that were interesting to listen to and both did a good job.

At the end of the meeting, guests are asked to make comments about the meetings. My dad told the group that we were both going to join, and everyone clapped and smiled at us and welcomed us aboard. When it was my turn, I asked the Presiding Officer if I could ask a question instead of make a comment, and he said go ahead. I looked at the different people in the room and asked if any of them were scared when they first joined, and Marcy, an excellent speaker, said oh yeah, and Houston, the elderly spunky lady who’s an amazing speaker, said even though she grew up with public speaking because both of her parents were speakers, table topics absolutely terrified her. I was surprised and said that they’re all really great speakers and if they’re nervous at all it’s impossible to tell. I expanded on my question some more saying how I felt pretty intimidated because everyone here is already so skilled at speaking in front of groups, and they reassured me that they’d been coming here for many years now.

When the meeting was adjourned, Houston came over to me and talked to me one on one about my question and I felt like we made a real connection. She suggested that I use my young age as a theme and play to that like she does with her age being the oldest member in the group. With a mischievous smile and a twinkle in her eye she told me about how great it is being old. She said she can get away with so many things because people will just wave her off as a cooky old lady, which made me laugh. She is very happy and I admire her spunk and enthusiasm.

It was a good night even though the only time I spoke then was during the breaks and at the end of the meeting, and when I asked my question. I’d had the question in my mind beforehand as I was hoping even just asking a question before the group would give me some practice speaking to the group, and I’m glad I asked because I think it showed people that I’m eager to hear from them and that I’m an approachable person.

Tackling the #1 Fear in the U.S.

6-1-11

On Wednesday night from 7:30-9:00pm, I went to a Toastmasters meeting for the first time.  Toastmasters is basically a group where people practice and improve their public speaking.

There were about 12 others there besides my dad and me.  We sat around a medium sized table with comfy chairs, and it felt like we were at a conference.

The Sergeant at Arms, Pat, opened the meeting and started with the pledge of allegiance.  He introduced the Joke Master, Saeed, who came up to the podium and told two jokes.  Saeed seemed comfortable speaking in front of the group and he got many laughs.

The Toastmaster of the Evening, Carol, then introduced the guests (me, my dad, and one other woman next to me), explained who had each duty for the night, and introduced the word master, Larry.

Larry explained that the word he picked for each person to use when they came up to the podium was pococurante, which means indifferent or nonchalant.  He got some laughs for his unusual word choice, and I thought it would be really hard to use that word in a sentence on the spot.

Windy came up and explained her role as the Table Topics Master.  Her topic was an auction, and she handed out monopoly money to some of us to use for bidding.  She had three items to be auctioned:  a green set of bathroom scrubbing gloves, a macaroni and cheese box, and a pouch with a screwdriver and some other little tools. She picked on a person one at a time to come up and auction off an item. They all did an excellent job and got us laughing with their creative selling pitches.  The others were trying desperately to outbid each other and were having a lot of fun with it.

The Toastmaster Carol then introduced Marcy as the first speaker.  She had to do a 5-7 minute speech to inform and motivate others to learn something.  Her speech was called “How to improve any relationship in 30 seconds”.   She seemed very comfortable and had such excellent eye contact that you really felt like she was talking to you.

Cholae went next, and had a speech on a bear story in Yosemite.  Her goal was vocal variety she said.  She was very animated and had many facial expressions, and someone said she was like an actress performing a monologue on stage.  She moved around, made good eye contact, and told her story with a lot of enthusiasm.

We had a break for ten minutes after that, so I got some water and talked to Marcy. I told her that I really liked her speech and that it got my interest.  She asked if I’d had any communications classes before and I said no, and that I was here because I wanted to confront my fear of public speaking.  She said this is a good place to do that, and said she was terrified of public speaking when she was my age.  She told me that she studied educational psychology in college and that she’s also an artist, and said many of the people here are artists and writers.  I liked Marcy, and we got along really well.  Some other people came up to us and there was about 6 of us in a circle soon enough.  I was surprised by how easily I fit in with everyone, they’re all at least 40 and above and I was the youngest by far.   It was as if I’d been there all along, and even though I was in the midst of a bunch of strangers, I felt comfortable.   I told Houston I really liked how she sold the macaroni and that she was really funny, and many others agreed that she did amazing.

Then the Sergeant at Arms flicked the lights up and down to signal us to return to our seats.  Two people came up and evaluated the speeches, though there was nothing much to criticize and was mostly positive feedback.

The timer said how long each person took for each part, and if they stayed in range or not.  Most did, with a little bit of time over sometimes.  The Word Master went over how many times the pococurante word was used and if it was used well.  The Grammarian went over the number of ahs and ums, said the speeches were faultless, there were no likes, ahs, or anything, and they did a really good job.  They then asked for comments from guests, so my dad said that everybody did well and all that, and I said that everyone looked really comfortable and I couldn’t tell if they were nervous at all, though they told me that they were on the inside and laughed.  At that, the meeting was adjourned.

I remained at the table with my dad and talked to Larry afterward.  I actually did a water assessment for him before for my internship so we had met already once.  He asked what I thought and if I’d do it, and I told him that I felt pretty intimidated.  Everyone seemed so comfortable, confident, and professional, and I felt like I would look terrible compared to them and there would be so much to criticize.  I wouldn’t be able to not use an um or a so at some point or look at my notes.  My nervousness would show.

Talking to him helped though.  He told me the story of a girl who had come into Toastmasters who at first wouldn’t look anybody in the eye and would talk to them while facing away.  Her first speech she went up to the podium, opened her mouth, and nothing came out.  She opened it again and still nothing could come out.  She then sat back down, and they still evaluated her.  She came back, kept trying, and by the end of it she completed her 10 speeches and was up there at the podium making eye contact and doing really well.  He told me another story of a guy who lost the job to someone else in an interview because the other guy had the Toastmasters certificate and his presentation was better.

He told me that they all have been doing this for years and it just takes time.  He said they’re a very laid back group and they like to have fun, and this is a good environment to practice and will help you with a lot of things in life.  I liked his talk, and I think he convinced me to come again.

I’m scared out of my mind, but I am going to do this.  (I can’t believe I’m doing this.) This is a huge jump, and before the meeting I felt like I could take this, but the fear really kicked in when we were actually there.  I felt so intimidated by the other speakers who were all so comfortable and looked like they enjoyed being up there.  They were funny, charismatic, and confident.  They never said um or ah or so, and no nervousness showed at all.  They seemed like true professionals.  They didn’t really get any criticisms except for a nit picky thing or two that I think was just said because there had to be some sort of criticism.

If I can do this though, I can do anything. (Aaaghh I hate public speaking!!!)

“Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain”.

Post Navigation