I am a public speaker. It’s not that way by my design, however. If I had my way, I’d slink off to the back of the crowd and be happy to blend in. However, despite my introverted tendencies, my employment position requires that I spend time in front of various audiences. From students, to classroom teachers, other administrators, parents, citizens of our city, and government officials, I often find myself in front of audiences.
Although I’m a perfectionist, it is interesting to note that I’m not that way in front of a crowd. While others will spend too much of time preparing for a speech, I’m often happy to map out the major points I want to make and then speak without the benefit of notes. Most times, I’m happy with the outcome. I know, though, that more preparation time provides me more confidence during the speech and a better quality “product”. That is why I joined Toastmasters International after talking by email to Steve Pavlina about his experiences in Toastmasters. I wanted the discipline and structure I would gain in Toastmasters to support my public speaking efforts. Toastmasters has given me this and so much more. I spend more time in preparation and, as a result, my message is more clear, my timing is improving, my arguments more compelling, and my presentation skills improved.
My preparation methods changed so radically that I began to worry that I had gone 180 degrees and was spending too much time on preparation. Then I heard a quote from John Lennon, who, while advising young aspiring entertainers, told them to spend 100 minutes in rehearsals for each minute spent onstage. Some quick figuring let me know that I spend roughly that amount of time preparing for my speeches for Toastmasters. I began to feel quite proud of myself. I felt humbled, however, when I found an article by Mike Evangelist, formerly at Apple, that described how Steve Jobs prepares for his keynote addresses that introduce new products developed at Apple. Jobs takes presentation preparation to new levels. A perfectionist, Jobs demands excellence from himself and others who might also be speaking with him.
After reading the article, I felt inspired to renew my efforts to become, not only a better public speaker and presenter, but to raise the level of my efforts in all things I do to a professional one.