How I learned to love public speaking

Kerri Power

It was a summer day in 2009 when I decided I’d had enough. I was tired of feeling afraid every time I spoke up in a meeting. I was tired of struggling to share my ideas, even in casual conversations. I searched online for Toastmasters, and found a club that was meeting in a few hours. Something inside me said: “Today is the day!” That night, I went to my first meeting of Sandy Hill Toastmasters.

Walking into a room of strangers, all chatting with each other, I felt overwhelmed at first. But what I found was a fun, welcoming club with a proven method for learning public speaking. I was impressed by the supportive environment, the well-run meeting and the quality of the speakers. “You should join,” said the man sitting next to me, who had just given an amazing speech. And I did.

For my first speech, I wrote out every word and practiced it about 10 times. When my name was called and I walked to the lectern, my ears buzzed and I lost all sense of time. As I began to speak, my knees shook and my voice felt thin. I hoped the audience wouldn’t notice.

When I finished, and heard the applause, I felt like I had jumped out of an airplane. I couldn’t believe I had actually done it, and I immediately wanted to do it again.

Over time I gave more speeches, and used the feedback I received to get better. After a few months, something strange started to happen. I had moments when giving a speech was almost fun. “Wow, it might be possible to actually enjoy this,” I thought. As time went on I realized I was enjoying it, consistently. Speaking had actually become something I liked to do.

I still feel anxious before speaking, but now I know what to expect—a ramp up of nerves before the speech, and exhilaration afterwards. I can speak comfortably without notes, and I know how to put together a speech in a fraction of the time it used to take. Learning to speak has been a gift that translates into many areas of my life.

But the greatest gift of Toastmasters has been the people I’ve met. Our club includes university students, professionals, retirees, and everything in between. We range in age from 20s to 70s and come from many countries and cultures. We are all interested in learning, growing, and supporting each other.

If you want to learn public speaking, perhaps today is the day! Drop in to a meeting, or contact us to learn more. Everyone is welcome.

Sandy Hill Toastmasters meets on Mondays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Sandy Hill Community Centre, 250 Somerset St. E. To learn more, visit our website at www.toastmastersottawash.ca, or email us at tmsandyhill@gmail.com