It is a rewarding experience to set out to do something and then finally accomplish that goal.
In December (2020 that is) I completed a Toastmasters Pathway. For me this was no mean feat, having commenced the journey down my chosen path some three years previous. Although I must add, I have been working on several paths, and have not been focused on one alone.
The path I have completed is called Presentation Mastery and this is what Toastmasters International has to say about it:
This path helps you build your skills as an accomplished public speaker. The projects on this path focus on learning how an audience responds to you and improving your connection with audience members. The projects contribute to developing an understanding of effective public speaking technique, including speech writing and speech delivery. This path culminates in an extended speech that will allow you to apply what you learned.
The final project criteria requests you to reflect on and share some aspect of your growth during the completion of an entire path.
The following is the speech I presented to my club with one addition – two paragraphs in blue that were dropped (on the fly) because I became aware I would have gone over time. This was a 10 – 12 minute speech and my presentation was exactly 12 minutes.
(Speech titles are in bold and italics and any speech I have already shared here are hyperlinked to the corresponding post. I’ll work on sharing those I’ve not done so yet.)
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You’ve Got This
When faced with an attentive, or otherwise engaged audience, either large or small, I like to slowly take a deep breath. By simply standing there in the speaking area neither moving nor saying a word, I get the audience’s attention, tell myself ‘You’ve Got This‘ then I slowly let out that breath and begin my presentation.
This is my own neuro-linguistic programming technique that puts me at ease. Unlike ‘Eleven Pipers Piping’. They would be the absolute, and complete, end of my composure. Thank goodness they’re not here because I might be compelled to dance a jig, much like the jig I’ve danced along the Presentation Mastery Pathway.
This has been a pathway that has allowed me to come a long way and in reflecting on how just far I have come, I’ll throw in a little twist like my pipers and do so from the end back to where my journey started.
I was thrilled to eventually present to my home club the presentation I developed for my Level 5 Prepare to Speak Professionally project – Injecting Humour. Albeit I delivered a shortened 15-minute version, thanks to the encouraging and meaningful feedback from many of my Toastmaster friends, this presentation has improved as it has evolved.
Imagine my excitement just two weeks ago, when I extended the original presentation to fit a 40-minute time slot and presented it via Zoom to members of District 109 in Central and Southern Europe. I’m still buzzing.
I never imagined I would be able to talk for that long, to cover all the points I identified and wished to share and do so without the use of notes. I can thank Marilyn for that because my speech mud map was, and still is, the perfect resource that allows me to feel, as well as be, full of confidence. All I need to do was look at my speech pictogram and I immediately know what I am speaking about next.
But speaking about this day, I cannot do so without touching on Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, a speech that saw me explaining the reasons behind my belief in there being only three days in any given week and how this philosophy allows me to view my Toastmasters leadership journey.
For those of you who missed it . . . Yesterday is where we lay our past to rest along with all our deeds and misdeeds. Today is where we flourish and have the opportunity to learn the lessons yesterday was always meant to teach us. And tomorrow is where we plant our seeds of hopes and dreams for what another day may hold.
I will forever be grateful to Lesley for her poignant evaluation of one of the hardest speeches I’ve ever written.
From there I’ll have to mention one of the easiest things I’ve ever written. Eight posts on my blog. I initially thought Writing a Compelling Blog would be viewed as an easy elective, given I’d already been blogging for six-year, but choosing this option allowed me to step back and compare Toastmasters with many important aspects of my life. Gardening, running a business, working with others, my friends and our differences, being a mentoring, and finally my family and myself.
I even scrutinised why Toastmasters are encouraged to try, try again but it was my last post about myself that had an unforeseen effect on me as I chose to demonstrate why I believe I’m an Excellent Storyteller. See me later if you’d like a link to these blog posts. You might enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.
Writing a blog post about mentoring is one thing. Writing a speech about being a mentee is another, but a process I thoroughly enjoyed as I did every speech I wrote while dancing a jig along the Presentation Mastery pathway. Who’s the Doctor, and My Love of Puzzles, How to Tie Off a Bag, What I Was Born To Be, and I Remember Everything. All wonderful speeches (in my opinion) but not everyone was delivered here at my home club.
For example, I relished in researching a topic and in Putting Things Into Perspective I completely discombobulated the members of Mercury’s Motivators by comparing the distance covered by one light-year (5.8 trillion miles) to the height of stacked $100 notes. By the way, it would be 631 miles, 2½ times the height of the ISS.
With the help of extrapolation, I explained that in order to reach a recently discovered Earth-like planet some 500 light-years away, those stacked of $100 notes would reach 40 billion inches above the surface of the Earth, somewhere out there halfway between Jupiter and Saturn. Ok, so this may have been a crazy way of explaining things, but everyone got it. Except for Brian, and as my evaluator he proceeded to tell me how I should have calculated a comparison. Oh well!
In the true tradition of a roller-coaster ride, I was ever so emotional writing about An Averted Tragedy and sharing with others the thoughts that flashed through my mind when facing a seemingly unavoidable disaster. I still love this speech about the white cow called lucky and the impact that moment had on my outlook on life.
It was around this time that I finally became a Distinguished Toastmaster, The Comedy Club chartered, and members of District 69 became familiar with my kitchen antics.
And all of this leads me back to the Icebreaker, I presented at the beginning of this journey.
It was Christmas 2017, and as Pathways had just officially launched, Sue Pinker, Mercury’s Vice President Education at the time, wanted to get underway with a bang.
There were four Icebreakers presented that night. Marilyn spoke about her name having no Aussie shortened form while I thought, ‘At least you have more than one syllable’. Brian spoke about studies and lecturing at university and someone else spoke about something else. I don’t remember who and I don’t remember what, but I certainly remember that I spoke about the year I turned six.
This was a very important year for me, one indelibly etched in my mind for all eternity so it was a no brainer that I would share the reasons why with my club. It was one of the easiest speeches I’ve written and was delivered exactly as planned.
But what I failed to foresee was the impact my speech would have before I even uttered a word.
You see, the audience reacted to the title of my speech and yet their reaction has not made me reconsider my choice of speech titles. Rather it has made me realise that (perhaps) they are right on the money.
The Toastmaster for the evening directed the audience to: “Please welcome our next speaker Clare Horan with her speech titled I Will Never Forget”.
As expected, the audience applauded as I walked forward, shook the Toastmaster’s hand and entered the specking area.
As the applause died down, the Toastmaster did the right thing and repeated the title of my speech, followed by my name.
“I Will Never Forget, Clare Horan” and on that note, the audience erupted in laughter. There was even some clapping.
I took in a deep breath, told myself ‘You’ve Got This‘, and as I let that breath out, I took a bow and thus began my journey along a pathway that has been full of ups and downs, twists and turns and a plethora of learning opportunities.
I’ve relished in the assignments, both mandatory and elective and now, some three years later, it is my great pleasure to complete my journey the same way I started.
(And thus, as I concluded my presentation, I took a bow.)
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