As a speaking coach, I work with presenters who want to be better immediately…which is understandable. Of course, the most common suggestion for rapid growth is to SPEAK. Often. At every opportunity. As my friend, associate and fellow World Champion of Public Speaking Darren LaCroix says, “STAGE TIME, STAGE TIME, STAGE TIME!” One critical factor is the QUALITY of the stage time that we receive. One could speak every day in front of a mirror…which technically is not stage time because there is not stage and no live audience…and experience incremental growth at best. One could also take every available speaking slot at their Toastmasters club meetings and receive numerous evaluations…sometimes from the inexperienced…and again make incremental progress. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. However, I have THREE suggestions that, when implemented, can be game-changers.
ENTER A SPEECH CONTEST
Toastmasters International Speech Contests provide WONDERFUL opportunities for rapid growth. Contests require speakers to push for excellence on the platform. Contestants find themselves competing against others, but also against themselves. Contests require speakers to prepare with sometimes greater purpose and focus, making improvements quickly and frequently. Toastmasters assignments have specific objectives, many of which do not place high emphasis on the art and skill of speaking. Of the 11 Paths in the Pathways learning experience, only ONE…Presentation Mastery…focuses on presentation mastery. 🙂 While on any speech contest journey, presenters have to focus on the skills required to prepare, practice and present a top-quality speech, and it’s difficult to NOT learn and grow during this process. You may win a trophy, and you may not. Either way, you will speak in what can be a high-pressure situation, almost forced to be at your best, striving for excellence. If you want to grow quickly…and I suspect that you do…I recommend entering a speech contest.
BECOME AN EXCELLENT EVALUATOR
My next suggestion may sound counter-intuitive but give this a try. Evaluate presenters as often as possible. This is not only for Toastmasters. Watch speeches on video…maybe a few TEDx presentations…through the eyes of an evaluator. Ask several questions each time, including:
What did they do well?
How did they move you emotionally?
How did they tell stories effectively?
Did they use props and illustrations, and if so, what made their use memorable?
How often did they use pauses, and to what effect?
How well did they portray characters and use dialogue?
Was their message clear?
What was their call to action?
Over time you will become more aware of the effective techniques that these speakers use. Go one step further and watch Toastmasters World Champions, and well-known speaking experts. Learn WHAT they do and WHY they do it, because your growth will not be simply about imitation, but will come from a deeper understanding of the skill and art of speaking.
GET A COACH
Here’s one more thought, which I’m confident that you have already heard. Athletes, singers, actors, entrepreneurs and others hire coaches. To grow exponentially and quickly, engaging a coach is a solid option. A good coach will quickly identify your strengths and point out areas needing improvement. More importantly, they can give you the guidance you need to make those improvements quickly. Find a qualified coach…someone with experience and expertise…who is a good fit for your personality and speaking style. I did, and it was transformative.
As you pursue excellence on the platform,
Enter a speech contest
Become an excellent evaluator
Get a coach
Put these into practice and you WILL experience rapid growth!
DREAM BIG; WORK BIGGER; PURSUE EXCELLENCE!