The proven way to excel and achieve personal happiness
We need the courage to live. Life is not straightforward. I remember all the times when I was cowered by fear. However, it’s all my perception.
Fear to fight back. Fear to face the consequences even when wronged. Fear to put things right and be justified. Fear to inspire others to have courage through one’s challenges.
One of my first fears was public speaking. Being pathologically shy and introverted had caused me to miss many opportunities in life.
I missed the meeting and interacting with inspiring people because of the lack of the art of conversation. Mostly due to the fear of not being able to converse well.
It was evident back in school. Students who were conversant and confident were also courageous. They get noticed, offered opportunities to develop and grow further.
That caused me to embark on a long journey to learn communication skills. Almost laughable thinking about it.
My first foray into public speaking was when I enrolled with the British Council for a public speaking course. On the day itself, they put us individually in front of a video camera and I freaked out. Talk about throwing one into the deep sea immediately.
The costly three-day course hardly moved my dial on personal confidence.
Next, I embarked on a Dale Carnegie course, another expensive workshop, all ten sessions of it. Dale Carnegie was an American writer and lecturer, and the developer of courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking, and interpersonal skills.
He was the famous author of “ How to win friends and influence people” which is still widely read and practiced today.
My self-introduction on stage on the first day lasted 10 seconds. We could see that public speaking fear was real as, among the professionals, even high fliers like managing directors feared speaking in public.
Every session, we would listen to an inspiring speech by the instructor. Our homework was to go home and prepare a five-minute speech to perform at the next session.
All emotions were explored. If the project was about anger, each participant had to relate an angry incident and really feel angry about it to appear authentic. It was structured to appear more authentic and break the ice with the audience.
Subsequently, over the ten sessions, we had projects on sadness, fear, joy, embarrassment, shock, and a whole gamut of emotions.
We had great fun. Subtlely, participants started to drop their facade, their anxiety, and their fear and became comfortable in their own skin by the fifth project. On graduation day, some people have changed to become more confident.
It was very effective. I became more coherent in my presentation but it lacked structure. Moreover, the course had ended and we needed a new platform to hone our speaking skills.
I decided to expand on my communication skills and stumbled upon Toastmasters’ club meetings. It was an ongoing meeting and affordable.
The Toastmasters movement was started by Ralph Smedley in the US who started Toastmasters International in 1924 to help people spruce up their speaking skills.
Today, it has mushroomed into more than 14000 clubs in over 141 countries. Despite it being formed so long ago, it continues to be popular among organizations to assist people who want to develop their self-confidence, communication skills, and leadership skills.
I have stayed with the SIM2 Toastmasters club for over thirty years in Singapore. It is a very nurturing environment where people from all walks of life join to improve their communication skills. Formed in the late 80s, it has groomed many champions of public speaking contests at club level, division level as well as district level.
A Toastmasters club provides a platform to members to present their project speeches that are evaluated by experienced members. It is a safe place to practice as the environment is congenial and nurturing.
Besides this, the benefits of having a mentor, mentoring others, and assuming exco roles build leadership qualities. The networking is good due to the diversity of members’ backgrounds. Decision-making and delegation are also important skills learned.
The program was always comprehensive and structured. Today, Toastmasters training has moved online offering more challenges to improve communication skills. There are clearer instructions and demos for those embarking on their speech assignments.
Success really depends on the degree of preparation and participation by the member. Besides constant practice as a Toastmaster, listening to other members share their experiences makes one wiser.
I have stayed with the club for more than 30 years because it continues to improve my life in terms of career, relationships, and enlightenment. There is always growth and new knowledge. Every meeting is fulfilling and educational especially if one participates in it.
Besides speaking skills, we also develop listening and critical thinking skills. I see the benefits as I employ these skills in my daily practice as a dentist and as a family member and friend. You may say that good communication leads to a successful life.
My ability to succinctly put my points across reduces much misunderstanding, gets work done, and grasp the audience’s attention during speaking. It is due to the appropriate choice of words and phrases used and the succinct structure learned through Toastmastering.
In addition, the requirement to do speeches requires one to read widely as well as write knowledgeably. We have witnessed members who have excelled in their careers and rose in their ranks at work because of good public speaking skills. We had non-native speakers whose English language was not their primary language attained championship in club contests due to their own diligence and practice at Toastmasters meetings.
They became more popular and respected among their work peers. They also started to assume leadership roles at their workplace and at home. Some members have scored high on their career ladders and shared improved relationships with their family members and friends.
My point is;- If you feel that something is missing in your self-confidence, if you feel that people are not listening when you speak, if you feel stuck in your job, join the Toastmasters club of your choice.
Participate actively and watch yourself succeed happily in your career and your life.