Education Blog

Impromptu Speaking – What Is It and What Can You Do To Overcome Your Fear of It?

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

dsc05799By David Dante CC, 2016 District 27 Table Topics Champion

Why are so many people tremendously terrified of impromptu speaking? This form of speaking is a subset of public speaking and as many as 75% of people are afraid of public speaking. I imagine this number is higher when it comes to improvised speaking.

Generally, individuals feel public speaking is giving a prepared speech, such as a keynote address (Toastmasters is a good place to work on this skill). Impromptu speaking is speaking off the cuff, whether it will be delivering a speech or simply answering a question (Toastmasters is a good place to work on this skill too). In either case “off the cuff” refers to the speaker having very little or no time to prepare. For example, I have observed fellow Toastmasters stumble and fumble their way through answering a spontaneous interview question after presenting amazing prepared speeches at competitions. I have even heard some interviewees start answering the question with a statement like “I hate Table Topics [a short improvised speech]; I am really bad at them.” I can empathize where these speakers are coming from.

When I first joined Toastmasters, I was keenly aware of my fear of public speaking, glossophobia. The first time I did a Table Topic I felt like I wanted to heave my cookies, my hands were wringing wet, my legs and arms were shaking, and thoughts were racing through my head so fast I could not comprehend them. Talk about fight, flight, or freeze. I was experiencing flight or freeze. I imagine this is how many people feel when doing table topics for the first time and possibly in many unplanned speaking situations. There is a psychological theory behind this and if you are interested, check out Glenn Croston’s Ph.D. blog.

I want to touch upon what I do to overcome this phobia and how my experience may be helpful for you. For me, one of the important actions I take pertaining to impromptu speaking is to implement the Nike slogan “Just do it”. Toastmasters is a fantastic environment to apply this slogan because it is a safe place to experiment pushing our boundaries beyond our speaking comfort zones. Fellow Toastmasters are nurturing by providing helpful feedback to encourage our improvement. In addition to just doing it, I do it often! Repetition is a tool that will assist us to grow in our spontaneous speaking. You will be developing the skill of impromptu speaking by exercising the muscles needed for it.

Improvised speaking can be performed in any meeting role at a Toastmasters meeting, for instance the timer may define the timing lights descriptively (for example the bright shamrock green light) or tell a brief story about what the role of the timer is (for example I’m the meter-maid of time and I provide the speaker with warning signs).

As we move on, I like to have fun, do you? I am going out on a limb here and assuming your answer is “YES!” I imagine when an activity is fun you cannot wait to do it again. It is as if there is a yearning from your entire being to engage and connect with that activity. You may experience goose bumps on your arms or a warmth expanding in your chest, or any other multitude of physical sensations in your body when thinking about that activity. As such, another important aspect to impromptu speaking for me is to have fun with it while participating in the Toastmasters meetings and in life! If you consider unplanned speaking drudgery or insanely hard work or tell yourself you are just bad at it, I imagine the experiences you have may feel painful in some way, shape, or form rather than fun. When I am feeling that sense of joy while engaged in unrehearsed speaking, it helps me want to do it again, and again, and again.

Mental preparation is another aspect of impromptu speaking that is important me wherever I am. Being able to keep a clear mind or have the ability to clear your mind quickly is a great skill to have for impromptu speaking. It is a great skill to have anywhere for anything for that matter. One way I do this mental preparation is to take a deep breath before responding. The breath is not one as in exacerbation or frustration rather it is a quiet slow belly breath. It only needs to last about three to five seconds. I accomplish this without exhibiting it. This deep belly breath creates just enough space for your brain to clear and begin to find a response to the question.

Impromptu speaking is a useful life skill to hone. Breathe, have fun, and “Just do it!”

 

 

A Moment of Recognition

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Carlos Vby Carlos Velázquez, DTM

CRYSTAL CITY EVENING TOASTMASTERS BLOG JUNE

I would like to take a moment to recognize the contributions of our leadership team as we transition into another Toastmasters program year for 2015-2016.  Anirudh Raipure (Vice President of Education), Dan Roth (Vice President of Public Relations), Aziz Buranchiev (Treasurer), Misha Davies(Secretary), and Scott Marquiss (Sgt. of Arms), have all given of their time to execute another successful Toastmaster year.  Some of our highlights include:

  • Earning the President’s Distinguished Award for the second time in a row
  • Recruiting 21 new members which resulted in recognitions for the Smedley and Beat the Clock Awards
  • Supporting two new member orientations and coaching sessions
  • Hosting two speak-a-thons and five special events (picnics and happy hours)
  • Coordinating an Open House with an award winning motivational speaker
  • Having strong contest participation with an Evaluation Speech Contest Champion—Dan Roth and a humorous speech second place winner at the Division level—Misha Davies
  • Having Trupti Raipure and Dan Roth complete their Competent Communicator Awards
  • Having Michael Maloney finish his Competent Leader Award and his Advanced Leadership Bronze Award

I had my own successes by serving as the TLI instructor for the summer and winter sessions.  I earned my Triple Crown award by completing the Silver and Gold Communicator Awards and the Advanced Leadership Bronze Award.  I had the pleasure of working with a strong team from Que Pasa Toastmasters to facilitate a youth Toastmasters program and I competed in the Spring District International Speech Contest and took first at the Area Contest with a humorous speech.

I am looking forward to serving as the Area 14 Director and the TLI Instructor Chair in addition to serving as the Vice President of Education for Old Town Toastmasters.  It is hard to believe that in March of 2011 I joined Toastmasters with much trepidation.  Today I wear the Toastmasters pin with much pride and I have had the absolute honor of working with four mentees who are experiencing much growth as they assume leadership roles.

The friends we all make through Toastmasters makes the experience worthwhile and the growth we all go through in fostering our leadership and communication skills is what keeps us engaged in our club.

Thank you all for a great year!

 

Feedback is a Gift for the Whole Body

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Carlos Vby Carlos Velázquez, ACS, CLB

“Feedback is a gift,” I was reminded on many occasions by the leadership team of the American Red Cross.  For many years I was a volunteer with the national headquarters as part of the cadre of master trainers for the HIV/AIDS Latino prevention initiative.  The training was challenging.  Very few volunteers passed the course.  A key component of the curriculum was the evaluation session for each potential certified instructor.

During the course of the evaluation session we were coached on how to listen with the whole body.  We were to take in information as a gift.  We were not to respond or rebut to any feedback.  We had to listen and learn how to improve our skills and to understand the perspective of what our audience might perceive.  Audience perception is everything.

During our evaluation sessions at Toastmasters we are reminded that our speeches need to be audience-centered and that their perception on what we deliver is everything.   This is important from the way we engage an audience through eye contact, rhetorical questions, or even the word choice of our stories.   An evaluator for Toastmasters provides feedback through a critical lens that allows us to see how we are coming across non-verbally and the effectiveness of our words.

A gift should not be re-gifted.  That is poor taste.  A gift should not be returned.  It can teach.  A gift should not go without acknowledgement, even if you don’t like it.  A gift is an opportunity for speakers to learn about how they are being perceived by an audience; thus, feedback should be seen as an opportunity to learn, reflect, and grow.  We don’t have to agree with all the feedback but it is a good practice to return to comments within in 24 hours to see if a fresh read of our notes allows us to see things differently.  This is a part of hearing feedback with the whole body.