It’s rare for me to miss my afternoon nap. It’s even rarer for me to intentionally miss it to do something that fills me with fear and dread. But it’s a new year and I’m trying new things and having new adventures. That’s why I found myself at a meeting of the local Toastmasters Club this evening. Toastmasters – the club that’s been helping people “find their voice” since 1924. I guess even back then people were terrified of public speaking!
It’s no secret – I love to talk. But the idea of being in front of people when they’re staring at me, listening to what I’m saying, and wondering just how large the sweat rings under my armpits will get before the speech is over…well, that all petrifies me. Only the idea of dying in a fiery inferno, doing my own taxes, and ending up in a federal penitentiary scares me more.
I’ve always been afraid of speaking in front of people. When I was in elementary school, I was in my church’s Christmas Pageant. All the Catholic school kids got the good parts; the CCD kids were relegated to the secondary parts – the choir of angels and the farm animals - I was the donkey (yeah, I was a badass CCD kid). I had one line to say – “I’m the donkey and I carried Mary to the manger.” I got up to the microphone and timidly began – “I’m the donk – donk – donk –“ I’m pretty sure everyone in the audience was wondering the same thing – what’s wrong with the jackass?
Sure, I’ve made lots of speeches since then. But I don’t feel like I’ve really improved since I was that
jack donkey on the stage way back when. I’m always in such a rush to get through the speech so everyone can just stop paying attention to me that I talk supersuperfastandnoonereallyunderstandswhati’msaying. BREATHE. Oh God, now I have to answer questions?!
I really want to become more comfortable speaking in front of
large medium groups of people. For three main reasons: 1) In my new job, I'll be doing some training in a classroom setting and I think it would be beneficial to all concerned if they understood me; 2) I’ve been going to more and more meetings and well sometimes I have things to say and I don't want to be so nervous about taking the floor, so to speak; 3) I want to be prepared just in case Oprah calls and wants me to go on a public speaking tour. What? It could happen.
That’s why I decided to join Toastmasters. I will admit that I asked the Head Toastmaster prior to my arrival if I was going to have to speak tonight. Luckily, I didn’t. But I had on my clinical strength antiperspirant, just in case. Anyway, the whole thing was very chill and relaxed (well, for me at least – I wasn’t getting up in front of everyone to talk for 5-7 minutes!) The people were super-nice and supportive because guess what – they were in my Crocs once upon a time.
Here’s the best part. Each speech gets evaluated and the best speakers of the night get a trophy. Now, as much as I hate public speaking, I love a good competition and kitschy knick-knacks that can clutter up my house/car/cubicle.
So, game on Toastmasters. That trophy’s coming home with me one day.