Posts Tagged nerves

Review of 2009 and Plans for 2010. Part 3: Communication skills & Toastmasters

This post is a continuation from my previous entry about my review of 2009 and plans for the next coming year. (

Communication skills have become a topic of focus for me over the last year. It began with a work training course about creating business ideas and pitching them to business minded people in order to receive funding. Because my company is heavily involved with engineering, the classes were geared towards geeks and had a communication-based focus about them – opposite to the technical focus we were used to in Uni at our various courses. I guess this is something they thought we needed to learn.. This is something I enjoyed very much, because time and again I felt that I had great ideas throughout uni and work-life but short of something I could code together to illustrate, the ideas never seemed to make the light of day. I was a very nervous speaker and giving speeches was the worst task I could imagine. Yet it is a very necessary part of business and idea development.

The course left me with a hunger to improve my communication skills. Previously the easiest way to stop the nerves was to avoid speeches or confrontations whenever possible. However now I was willing to face the fact that this was something that scared me and that in order to proceed, hiding away from it was not the answer.

I discovered the Toastmasters group shortly after and went to my first meeting in March last year. Since then I have attended every other week and participated in roles and speeches. In October I took the role of Toastmaster for the first time. It was a very nerve-racking ordeal but I got through it OK without dieing. On later reflection, it showed me that when it comes to social gatherings, its important not to act on nerves. Toastmasters helps to work on things like nerves, as well as communication skills in the form of feedback and speaking tasks.

One unexpected thing about the Toastmasters group is the people I’ve met there and engaging in their own views. Its actually pretty hard to get away from it when they give a speech about their favourite topics. I’ve met Life coaches, NLP practitioners, veteran Toastmasters, engineers, students and other beginner Toastmasters. By meeting every couple of weeks and hearing what they have to say, they inevitably give off a particular view to a subject which is diverse and inspiring to me and makes me challenge my own view. Quite a change from the usual haunt of workmates in the same department and friends who share the same general interests as me.

The end result of this is huge. From my initial view of wanting to improve my speaking skills, my aims have catapulted to other sections of my life such as challenging my own beliefs of the world, to more accurately planning what it takes to become more happy and goal setting. This is a topic I would like to mention later on in another post.

Plans for 2010

I aim to keep on going with the Toastmasters group. Its a very clearly structured environment and because its so encouraging for progression, I dont have to worry about planning what I’ll do. I’ll be continuing my speeches courses, taking roles and chatting to the other toastmasters.

One particular aim I’d like is to meet more people from diverse backgrounds. Its interesting to meet people from all walks of life and can have an influence over your own path. To achieve this I hope to keep on looking at more clubs and meetings which might achieve this. A few months ago I discovered where people can join groups of a particular topic of interest and then have real life meet ups to discuss the topic. Edinburgh has loads of groups and I attended one to go for a visit to a local attraction.

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Toastmaster for the evening

The other week I was Toastmaster for the evening, at my local Toastmaster club. I’d like to articulate my thoughts about it as it might be encouraging to others.
I have been going for about 9 months now. My biggest problem was my nerves about public speaking. I was extremely nervous to even stand up and give my name and a short introduction. Over the months I participated in roles such as table topics master, ah-counter and timer, and did the first two speeches in the manual. All very nerve-wracking stuff (the initial standing up and beginning)
But I had a little “a-ha” moment when the role of toastmaster was thrust upon me.. It was the most un-nerving role I have taken, but it was the most satisfying and it made me realise that its actually a little selfish to be nervous; most other people have their nerves when they give speeches. As Toastmaster I couldn’t just tell people about how nervous I was about my own role, but rather I had to be in control of the meeting, and be there to provide whatever was required.
This has greatly helped my own progress in increasing my ability to communicate effectively and confidently. The next meeting I was Ah-Counter and the previous role helped me to understand my new one, where instead of concentrating on my own self consciousness, it was more important perform my role for the others’ benefit. This thought alone lessened my nerves because the focus was less about me as an individual.
For those who feel nervous about public speaking or giving presentations at work or school, I cannot recommend going to Toastmasters enough. I wont lie, the first few meetings were tough. It was a new environment for me. Its amazing how just a simple room and seats can take on such visions of anxiety and nerves when there are other people there, all looking at you… but after pushing through the first few times of forcing myself to go to the meetings and speak, it has proved worthwhile and enjoyable. One of the best things I enjoy about going to the club now is the insights and use of language I pick up from other speakers.

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