Emma Newbery attempts to take on a fear of public speaking with the help of Toastmasters
Whether it’s Churchill’s “We will fight them on the beaches” or Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream”, powerful words and powerful delivery are a potent partnership. Words raise armies, words challenge injustice, words change and shape our world.
And it’s not just about the big speeches – mastering the gift of the gab makes for an entertaining dinner guest, a confident interviewee, a better salesperson – it’s about being able to share what you want to say in a more engaging way.
I have a dread of public speaking that is akin to some people’s fear of flying or spiders. It’s not noticeable at first, but what begins as a slight tremor in my hands finishes in a whole body-jelly shake, a mouth that is more arid than La Guajira desert and a brain emptier than one of the walking dead.
So it was with a degree of reluctance that I accompanied my friend to a Toastmasters open night. And with an even higher degree of reluctance that I ended up speaking to the group in my bad and halting Spanish.
Especially as this was a group of professionals – since public speaking is what the Toastmasters is all about. Every week the group gathers to improve their public speaking skills. There are various roles that people fill – from the Toastmaster to the Ah-Counter (the person who counts the number of times a speaker says ‘uhh’ or any other filler), the Grammarian– and the group provides a supportive environment for people to build confidence and improve their oratory and leadership abilities, since there are given criteria from the manuals each member of the group has.
I won’t try to tell you that my Toastmasters night cured my speaking terrors, nor that my British cynicism didn’t flare up in the corporate environment. But I would say that I went home with a profound sense of the importance of being able to speak – and crucially, the possibility that this crippling fear of public speaking can be overcome with practice.
Toastmasters is active in 126 countries around the world – Bogota Toastmasters Club is the first in Colombia.
In each session, members take on various roles. There is a Toastmaster, an Ah-Counter, a Grammarian, a Timer, Speech Evaluators for each speaker and the all-important Speakers themselves. Speeches last for about five to seven minutes and follow the guidelines set out in the various Toastmaster manuals.
You can attend as many sessions you like for free as a guest, which means a much more limited level of participation: you can have a go in the Table Topics section. Here a member of the club prepares an activity that allows participants to improvise on a given topic or question.
If you want to start taking on formal roles or making speeches, you need to sign up for at least six months of membership, which costs $230,000 pesos.
Toastmasters meet every Tuesday (English) and Wednesday (Spanish) at 8pm.
Address: Transversal 23 #97-73, Salón Zeus, Edificio City Business, Salón Zeus. Bogota, Colombia.
Email: [email protected]