Tag Archives: Toastmasters

Comfort Zone

 TM

Between a sinus infection and a life that keeps on keeping on, I’ve missed coming in here and chatting with you, dear blogging friend.

I don’t remember when I last had a sinus infection, but this one wiped me out. Will power meant nothing. I simply had to stop, too tired to focus.

My Toastmasters group also needed attention, as I sort of abandoned my duties there for the past month. So, it was nice to return and evaluate a speech.

Moreover, I am working on a speech, which I will deliver October 14th. Amazing how I actually enjoy speaking in public now, something that couldn’t have been further from the truth two years ago. The nerves are still kicking my gut, but they seem to settle down after the first few words are spoken. 

I try to envision the speech as a storytelling event, and storytelling, writing, is what I love.

I’m always interested in similar experiences, or ways to conquer such fears. Public speaking, or any sort of public interaction that requires we step outside our comfort zone, how do you handle it?

Quiet Confidence

06

Introduced at a speaking circle

Quiet confidence is one of my favorite character traits.

Having worked in the legal field for many years, and living not far from Hollywood (in a neighborhood with many aspiring actors), I’ve seen my share of the opposite: loud arrogance. At least that’s what it looks like from the outside. But things aren’t always as black and white, are they?

To better understand quiet confidence, it’s probably important to look at other traits — insecurity, false humility — and the fact that many times we cover our insecurities with false humility. Something teenagers do, right? Boast themselves up in order to cover their chronic shyness.

I’ve never been extremely shy, but I grew up in a culture that placed emphasis on group over individual. Not necessarily in favor of the outspoken. If you had something to say (publicly, anyway) in Eastern Europe, you said it as a group. Everything was done for the betterment of the society. Cue the party lights and music, please.

Just another way to control people, really.

As a writer — or perhaps the member of a network-crazed society — it’s important, I think, to display quiet confidence, especially when showing our work.  Be excited enough without going overboard, and humble enough without sounding unsure. That’s where quiet confidence comes in. But how in the world does one display quiet confidence? Is it even teachable, or is it natural?

Let’s take a step back and see if we agree: networking, in person or online, has overtaken our lives. Online, that’s easier, but how about networking in person, running a meeting, doing readings? Selling something?

To see how this works, I attended a public presentation geared toward marketing some time ago.  Sat there and listened to various speakers — some very confident, some less so. When talking to them after, I learned confidence comes with practice. They get up there and do it time and again. Like anything else, I suppose. I joined the group (Toastmasters), as I mentioned before, and found I’m having a blast speaking in front of large groups. Of course, this involves a lot of preparation.

And here’s what I noticed about the best speakers. When all is said and done, when people come up to offer congratulations, say how easy it looked, the speakers display a good dose of quiet confidence. They accept the praise, discuss their work quickly, thank the person, then ask them about themselves or very tactfully change the subject.

How is that for the pleasant image of a person?

These are the people I want to learn from, talk to, watch give presentations, readings. If they have a book out, I’m likely to buy it.

While the quality of our work speaks for itself, we are its most important ambassadors. As one writer said to me: “Express confidence in yourself and your work without going overboard, and people will want to see it.”

It Finally Happened!

Tmasterphoto-3

It finally happened. I gave my public speech.

Thank you, dear readers, for putting up with the previous blogs throughout my preparation. As promised, I’m here to report back.  (Sorry about the photo quality. I had no control over picture-taking.) 

While I had spoken at my local club before (twenty members), this speech took place at Toastmasters Division — an audience of 150 people.

Before taking the stage, nervousness came often like the flick of a light switch, forced out by many deep breaths.  The butterflies refused to fly in formation, playing havoc with my body temperature — hot one moment, freezing the next.

When The Chair called my name, I had no choice but to ignore everything unrelated to the speech. Either that or run for the door. The first step was hard, the second not so bad. Once the words took mercy on me and came out, the gestures and eye contact followed. To my surprise, everything gelled together beautifully.

The speech “Happiness Right Now,” centered on the idea of marketing concepts designed to delve into our psyche; the theory of 95% dedicated to marketing (visual textures, colorful lights, music) and 5% of capital to quality.  

The call to action, something every speech must incorporate (I’m told), concluded: “it’s up to us — all of us — to decide quality matters.”

Applause never sounded better, mostly because the sound signaled The End. One hurdle cleared, many to go. And only at the end of my speech, the pesky butterflies settled. I was mentally and physically drained, but it didn’t matter anymore. I was done.

You know what else I learned? Or re-learned? As writers, and generally speaking, we have to put ourselves out there. What’s there to lose? Maybe complacency? :)

So tell me, when was the last time you put yourself out there?

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

esy-000883143

Ever gone skydiving?

No, me neither.

How about public speaking?

I was not ready for oratory last night, but a toastmaster friend said it’s the only way to improve. Find the end of your comfort zone. Jump over it. Sure, take a little time (or a lot) to prepare, but if you keep saying, “I’m not ready,” you’ll never be ready.

When I joined Toastmasters, back in August, the goal was to listen. Learn. Give the introduction speech, then a talk once or twice a year. Preferably in low-turnout nights, surrounded by people I know. Play it safe.

But my friend, a speaker extraordinaire, said no. That will do for you exactly nada. Nothing. Get out of your comfort zone, and the rest will come.

But what if I screw up?

You won’t. But if you lay an egg, step back, laugh, and we’ll laugh with you. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Those words — from Neal Donald Walsch — are still ringing in my head.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

As I reflect upon those words, I think that’s true with everything. I was not ready to send my latest story to Red Fez Magazine. But after I read it to the point of blurry vision, I took a deep breath and clicked Send.

A month later the story was published at Red Fez.

Didn’t know whether I was ready for the A-Z Blogging Challenge last year. But in a moment of courage and madness, I said Why not? The outcome, as I already mentioned, exceeded my expectations in wonderful ways.

I learned, the hard way, that as a writer, blogger — as an earthling — I’m doing myself a disservice in keeping behind the comfort line.

All right, I don’t plan on jumping out of a plane (not yet) or mountain skiing. Still want to keep safe, limbs attached to my body, but I say The Heck with too much comfort.

So, why not give the speech? (I’ll share the pics as soon as I have them). Why not go for another challenge? Submit more stories? Why not — finally — join Twitter? Just in time, too, for the A-Z Chat tomorrow (2/28). There’s never time to do more — a universal problem — but life begins at … you know the rest. :)

Have you stood on the edge of your comfort zone? Jumped past it? How did it go?

—-

Image: www.sodahead.com