Monday, March 17, 2008

My first speech at Toastmasters

Tonight, I have done my first speech at Toastmasters. Toastmasters is an association for people who want to become effective communicators and leaders. It is an excellent way to become a better speaker and overcome those butterflies. I heard about Toastmasters before, from people in the stuttering community and from Einar, a friend of mine who stutters, too. The group meets twice a month in an hour and a half long session. The first part consists of interpromptu speeches called the table topics, the second is a set of 4-5 speeches, and the third is an evaluation of the speeches.

Coming back to my speech, it was rather surreal. I had already attended two sessions and I introduced myself and mentioned my stuttering. The old story: I stutter, I have to work on it, Toastmasters might be a good way to practise, need to have patience with me and so. And then, I gave my speech and my evaluator said afterwards: Not sure Tom mentioned stuttering, because he didn't stutter! So I had to interrupt and say that I do stutter! My mentor who heard me stutter a lot from when I talked to her, was amazed that I was able to talk fluently. My trick was of course to: 1) write down the speech, 2) practise it 10 times 3) put on an acting mode. I was fluent... And they all seem to love it. The comments were: good sense of humour, good body language, CLEAR AND STRONG VOICE (give me a break ;-), interesting,...

Anyway, Toastmasters is a fantastic environment to work on your speech and to become more relaxed. I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone!


Chad said...

Congrats Tom! That is very cool and inspirational. I have thought of doing the same thing, but so far, the fear is getting the better of me.

Anonymous said...

Tom - Congratulations.

How did you choose your Toastmasters group? I think there are 5 in Luxemburg city. My problem in New York City is that there are 19 groups, and I don't know how to choose. (Plus the paralyzing fear, of course...)

What was your topic?

Anonymous said...

Tom, you mentioned an "acting mode". I think I know what you are referring to but can you clarify?

Adrian said...

I have done nine toastmasters speeches. Don't get me wrong, I still hate public speaking, but this is one of the best things I have done. I now have no fear of these speeches. The only thing I don't like is they pray before each meeting! What is up with that?

Tom Weidig said...


to Ora: a friend recommended that club to me.

to anonymous: I wrote the speech, learned the lines more or less by heart, and used a lot of body languages and played with my voice, so it felt like acting.

to adrian: NO praying in Luxembourg!

Einar said...

Nice to hear that your "Icebreaker" (that's what the first speech is called) went well!
I have good memories too in regard to Toastmasters. I remember the same phenomena you describe (about being totally fluent during the speech). I can't really explain it myself, it just seems to happen to me when a mix of adrenaline, a good hype and a friendly audience come together. If you tink about it is understandable, afterall during the speech oneself is in charge (no interruptions possible from the audience), your mission is clear and so the fear of speaking and the stuttering consequently are reduced a lot. (I do however also remember speeches where I stuttered a lot, so there's no rule here).
I also strongly recommend Toastmaster, I first heard of it from another stutterer in San Francisco who used it to improve his public speaking skills and to reduce his stuttering (and that guy had a rather severe stutter). It just offers good technique and good practise and consequently booasts confidence and simply improves public speaking skills a lot. Besides that it's just fun also a good way to meet new people!

Anonymous said...

I just want to mention to Adrian that clubs have the option to open with a prayer. However, if that makes you feel awkward, you should seek out a new club.

Otherwise, I agree with the overall sentiments of this post that Toastmasters is great tool for stutters.