The louder the rain pounded on the roof, the more I just wanted to crawl into a ball and cry. I stood there trying to muddle through my speech, and that voice of doubt got stronger until I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to stop. It was the only way I could prevent myself from crying in front of a room full of Toastmasters. I was seconds away from a panic attack.
You’re wondering what is Toastmasters, right? It’s an international speech club which started in the USA, though each club is run independently. The idea is to create an encouraging environment, while learning a variety of speech writing and performing skills - basically, you learn as you do.
Whether you do or you don’t,
Before I go on, let me give you some context. I’ve been going to the Whakatane Toastmasters club for just over a year now - it’s been a great learning experience, albeit a steep one. You see, not many people know this, but I continually struggle with self confidence and of course that has a flow on effect, especially when it comes to performing in front of a crowd.
“You’re one of the most confident people I know,” yeah I get that a lot,
I’m really good at hiding that struggle.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the time, I’m good. I work really hard to prepare for my speeches and poetry performances - what you see in those few minutes is in reality, weeks of mental preparation. Right up
until I open my mouth to deliver that first line, I have to make a conscious choice to quieten that voice of doubt which lingers almost like a hum.
Letting go of my ego and
walking the talk
I don’t talk about that part of myself a lot often because being vulnerable is hard for me. These last few weeks I’ve been really struggling with my confidence, which I have kept hidden. When you begin the process of emotional purging (which has really stepped up lately) you begin to question everything about yourself - and all you believe that is solid gets a shake up too. It can freak you out, like I did, because what I thought was certain is now up in the air.
“Oh gosh breathe girl, just breathe.” That’s what I kept telling myself, because I didn’t want to quit. I was embarrassed, yes, but I worked too hard to just sit down for the rest of the meeting. The irony of the moment didn’t escape me - my speech was about how Toastmasters was teaching me to help others step out of their comfort zone. I had to make the choice to now walk the talk.
Cheerleaders come in many forms
For the most part, I don’t have much to do with the people at Toastmasters outside of our fortnightly meetings. They are familiar acquaintances, yet the support to try again came in many forms. Words of encouragement, a smile, a hug. Cheerleaders come in many forms.
Was my speech perfect the second time around? No, and yes I felt I still stumbled in some places. Why do I put so much pressure on myself? You see, I’ve given myself two years to learn, practise and be booked to speak at a major TedX event. Being humbled at that moment reminded me that there’s still so much to learn. Now is the time to go all in and embrace these gap years - I can see that each stumble is a step closer to achieving that goal.
Putting the fun into learning
Some people go to Toastmasters to gain confidence, and sometimes because they just want to be able to speak in front of people without ‘dying’. It’s great to belong to a club with experienced Toastmasters, and I pick their brains at every meeting. Whatever your reasons, don’t be too serious and forget to have fun. I find learning fun, and when I get over my confidence issues, Toastmasters is fun for me.
There are plenty of Toastmasters clubs around the world, in varying sizes. Locally, there’s a club in Whakatane (which I belong to), and one in Kawerau too. I think I’m going to check out Kawerau too, I’ve heard great things about them and I’d like to see their numbers grow. You can visit a club up to three meetings, which should give you plenty of time to give it a go.
If you want to know more about my Toastmasters experience, leave me a comment or send me an email. There’s also information about how to find a Toastmasters club near you, as well as contact info for the Whakatane and Kawerau club.
Ronna Grace Funtelar is a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and slam poet currently based in New Zealand. She is a hobby hiker, photography and sunrise enthusiast with a passion for mindfully helping others live beyond their comfort zone.
Basically, a shorty who knows her life purpose.