glossophobia: an abnormal fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak.
When I was eight years old, I had to write my very first speech. I wrote it about my dog “Buttons”, a lovable mutt who thought he was a cat. To my dismay, a few days after I handed in my speech, I was asked to compete in the school’s public speaking competition. On the fated day of the competition, when the adjudicator called out my name, I rose from my seat, mounted the stage, and then proceeded to stare at my feet for three minutes. I don’t think I have to tell you all that I didn’t win the competition.
When I speak in front of more than twenty to thirty people a few unwanted biological processes tend to occur. Firstly, my voice cracks. It cracks like a thirteen year old boy’s voice cracks. Secondly, my cheeks turn to a crimson shade akin to a late summer’s sunset. Thirdly, my lexicon of words longer than five letters is suddenly deleted from my memory banks. I think I am mildly glossophobic.
My glossophobia is usually something I tend not to think about. It isn’t often that I am asked to speak in front of large audiences, but I was recently asked to give a fifteen minute speech in front of more than thirty people. I’m a little nervous.
I need help.
In search of advice and tips for public speaking, I inadvertently stumbled across the Toastmasters International website. I thought that there must be a branch on campus. Here’s what I found. There are two active branches and one inactive branch of Toastmasters at U of T. The two active branches are operated by the Engineering Department and by Rotman Commerce. This past Thursday, I had luck in locating and attending a U of T Engineer’s Toastmasters meeting on campus, and let me just ask this one question: Are all Engineering Students this nice?
I had the pleasure of speaking with some of the U of T Engineering Toastmasters Club and they gave me some great advice. I was really hoping that they could provide me with a crash course in public speaking, but unfortunately like everything else in life, learning how to be an effective public speaker takes time and practice.
When you sign up for the club, you are given a manual/workbook which contains practice speeches and analysis tools. Each week the group covers a section from the manual and members volunteer to give speeches. Siang, president of the club, described the environment as a “mutually positive environment, to practice public speaking”.
Although you can’t become a good public speaker in one night, club members Matt and Gene gave me some great tips that they have found useful:
1. Try to ensure you’re comfortable with the content of the speech.
2. Use body language to engage your audience, but don’t go overboard i.e. Flailing helicopter arms are not recommended. (Thanks for the demonstration guys!)
3. Record yourself giving your speech and then try to work on the areas you think need help.
4. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT imagine the audience naked or attempt to stare at a wall or one single person. I am told this only makes the speaker feel awkward and it doesn’t improve the quality of a speech. Instead, try to make eye contact with various people in your audience.
5. The most important tip from the Toastmasters is to be brave. In other words, Own it!
So, hopefully everyone out there finds these hints helpful. I will be employing these techniques on Saturday and I hope they can elevate my sub-par public speaking abilities!
If you’re interested in joining the U of T Engineering Toastmasters club you can find more information here. Wish me luck and I’ll let you all know next week whether or not my speech was a success or if I ended up staring at my feet for fifteen minutes!
ps…Below you’ll find photos from the “On Tap” water event that I wrote about last week. Thanks to the Sustainability Office for providing these great photos!
- Long Pour in action!