Friday I attended my first Toastmasters area contest. The setting was a conference room of a reputed Semiconductor company. The turnout was rather slim compared to my expectations. However, our club was very well represented and it was a jolly good time. I had managed to get into the contest by winning the impromptu speech contest at our club. So I was sufficiently nervous about having to perform on the stage.
But the real highlight of the show was the three prepared speeches made by relatively senior members of various clubs. What impressed me most about the experience was the ease with which the waltzed on stage and delivered their speeches. Not a care in the world. They showed no signs of effort or pretense. It was quite astounding.
What is it that makes us nervous about talking in front of a crowd? For me it is the sensation that people are watching me constantly expecting me to be interesting. I also have this perennial fear of looking the audience in the eye because I am scared I might forget what I have to say. But most of all I think it is a fear of making a fool of me that scares me the most.
I didn’t do too badly in my speech but I once again failed to make any eye contact or effectively add humor to my talk. Next time around I plan to take the lessons learnt from those fabulous speakers and try something new. Pick a few people in the crowd and use them as my targets. I will talk to them the way I have a conversation/argument on my dinning table with friends and family. I will not care if I forget my words. My entire focus would be to convince these few people.