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Feb 17

Institutionalised Public Speaking

Author’s note: Due to some technical difficuties I’ve had to restore my blog. However, in the process I lost some of my posts and comments. Luckily, I had some of my posts backed up. This is why you’re now reading this post again. Thank you for bearing with me.

Are you coasting along with your presenting? Do you bother to continue to learn and develop your skills? Or is there nothing more for you to learn? Amazingly, in my experience, people who do presentations as part of their job, don’t bother to hone and develp their skills. They reach a certain level and remain where they are. This can be especially true for those who do Toastmasters public speaking.

I wanted to share my views on a post put up by one of my friends from the UK public speaking blogosphere Nick R Thomas. He wrote a warning about not becoming an Institutionalised Public Speaker. He talks about his own experiences as a speaker and trainer working towards his Associate Diploma in public speaking.

The warning is essentially about not speaking to the same audiences over and over. What can happen when you join a public speaking club like Toastmasters or the Association of Speakers is that you gain confidence and grow, but you are only comfortable speaking to those people. After a while they become your colleagues in speaking and your friends. It becomes easy to go through the process.

But speaking’s not always going to be this way. Sometimes you might be required to get up and talk to a different bunch of people. Maybe at work they ask you to talk to a board about a proposal. All of a sudden it’s like the day you first joined your speaking club. You’re nervous all over again.

Don’t get me wrong I love being a Toastmaster. I’ve had some great experiences, but if you’re always speaking to the same bunch of people you can become institutionalised and overly familiar. Familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes.

What to do then? Speak at different places. If you’re a Toastie, go along to other Toastmasters clubs and gain experience speaking to different audiences. Maybe join an Association of Speakers club as well? This is what 2001 World Champion Darren La Croix means when he says “stage time, stage time, stage time”.

Personally I have a varied amount of stage time experience. I’ve worked professionally as an actor (different ballgame to speaking as you’re pretending to be someone else, but you’re still in front of an audience), I’ve done work shops, taught TEFL (in front of a bunch of people? stage time!), taught drama, I’ve done stand-up comedy and improv.

I’m saying that you should do what I do, but I’m sharing with you the amount of varied stage time experience that I have. You need to branch out, if you don’t already, and speak at other clubs, organisations and associations. Get up, learn develop and improve.

There’s a lot of handy information on Nick’s blog if you just look hard enough. But then, I guess you know that already because you’re a reader of his blog too, right?

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