Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Recent Public Speaking Gaff Prompts Me to Join Toastmasters International

Last night I was at an appreciation dinner for our command's OMBDUSMAN. There were a couple of hundred people there with several Admirals amongst other high ranking officers. I was probably one of the two most Junior Commanding Officers. Each command had a moment to go on stage and introduce and congratulate their OMBUDSMAN in front of the entire room. I'm normally not nervous when I speak, but I temporarily forgot our OMBUDSMAN's name. How horrible is that. I've known her for a couple of weeks now, I nailed her newborn child's' full name a week earlier in front of a large audience, but on this occasion I temporarily forgot our OMBUDSMAN's first name. I was sitting right beside her for about 1-2 hrs before going on stage. It was about a 4 second pregnant pause (seemed like an eternity) until I simply said her last name and pressed on. I got a laugh out of the audience in subsequent comments so I guess I redeemed myself. Nonetheless, I wasn't at all pleased with my performance on stage.

In the interest of self improvement, I'm investigating joining a local Toastmasters International chapter. Toastmasters' website states:

"Survey after survey shows that presentation skills are crucial to success in the workplace. Many people pay high fees for seminars to gain the skill and confidence necessary to face an audience. Toastmasters provides an option that is less expensive and held in high regard in business circles. This organization has been around for more than 84 years and offers a proven – and enjoyable – way to practice and hone communication and leadership skills. "

I participated in Toastmasters when I was in junior high and it helped a little with my impromptu speaking skills. Joining costs $20 with subsequent $27 semi-annual dues. I believe you get a magazine subscription out of it also.

I've had a couple of public speaking courses (junior high and as part of my MBA). Additionally, I've had to speak a number of times during my military career. But, unless you're somebody like Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, you can always improve your public speaking skills. I'm particularly interested in improving my ability to think on my toes in front of large audiences. Having skill in this area should help in the future whenever I have to do large audience question and answer sessions.

In my current job I know for a fact i'll be in front of others on a weekly basis. We'll see how it goes. It cannot hurt. Your best investments in life are those you make in yourself and your family.

If any of my readers has had experience with Toastmasters please let me know. I'd appreciate hearing any of your related stories.

As an aside, my public speaking event was a success in other ways. The OMBUDSMAN I recognized was technically our previous OMBUDSMAN who quit. Until her return this week, our command was without an OMBUDSMAN. She had done some great things in the past (command news letters, etc.); so it was a coup to get her back involved in our organization.

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