Public speaking? Me? Are you kidding?
Almost four years ago I joined Toastmasters International to get over my fear of public speaking. Here’s a post about my first prepared speech: Stepping Out of the Zone – My Toastmasters Ice Breaker Speech!
I still struggle with speaking-off-the-cuff, which happens during Table Topics when we’re asked a question about the theme of the meeting and given one to two minutes to speak. On lucky days, I’m asked a question that I connect with, something that has meaning to me, and that’s when I’ve been able to speak naturally and actually won best Table Topics a couple times. For the most part, though, I’m tongue tied.
Joining Toastmasters is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The members are friendly and welcoming.
I missed most of the meetings my third year in because George was battling cancer, fighting for his life. I’m happy to report he’s still in remission. To read about the beginning of that crazy journey, start here: Down the Rabbit Hole Part 1 – The Spot Found in a Random X-ray. (I still need to finish writing about it. Bit by bit.)
As it turns out, I won the International category speech contest on April 14 for Division A, District 12. Check out the cute dress I wore and new heels in this post: When Your Shoe Breaks in Public or You Tear a Hole in Your Fishmets.
Since February I’ve been working on my speech, “Reduce Your Risk of Dementia,” and I’ve revised it so many times, you’d think I’d be sick of it by now, but I’m not. I love my speech because it has an extremely important message.
Members of my Toastmasters club and a couple other clubs have given me feedback, so I’ve listened closely and made appropriate changes. This latest revision was the hardest. People wanted a description of my father other than just stating he has Alzheimer’s, so here’s what I added over the weekend:
“Dad is a thin, short man whose comical antics are a big hit on the dance floor at wedding receptions. My once-brilliant father is declining into a state of constant confusion. I wouldn’t wish such a fate on anyone.”
Now I know why I resisted adding something like that. It’s so emotional, I hope I can hold myself together during the competition. As hard as it will be to deliver this speech, I’m on a mission to share the message with as many people as possible so they can reduce their risk of dementia.
Here’s an earlier version of the speech.
Not a good delivery, but that’s what practice is for, right?
Finally, here’s a clip of Dad teaching me how to slow dance. I’m the one who’s slow at learning to slow dance, but that’s okay. Learning new skills is what matters. Just going through the process improves our brains!
I’m going to crank up some good music, dance like there’s no one watching, and hopefully calm my nerves. Competing in a speech contest is exciting and scary at the same time. Wish me luck!
What are your thoughts? Are you afraid of public speaking? Have you ever heard of Toastmasters? Do you like to dance? I’d love to hear from you!
Contest Photo credit: Taylor D. Fennell, Esq.