Not to sound like a snob, but I can’t tell you how many times I have attended a workshop or seminar about animal rights, and left wondering if the presenter ever took one public speaking class in his or her life. Sure, the info they were relaying was educational and interesting. But if they had just said “um” a few (hundred) less times, or made eye contact with the audience once or twice, or slooooowed down, their presentation could have gone from mediocre to outstanding.
That’s where Toastmasters comes in. Toastmasters is a non-profit dedicated to helping people become more competent and comfortable in front of an audience. There are meetings all around the globe. Once you find one near you, you attend that meeting, and practice your skills in front of a group of supportive people. You evaluate each other, using their Competent Communication manual, a “series of 10 self-paced speaking assignments designed to instill a basic foundation in public speaking. Participants learn skills related to use of humor, gestures, eye contact, speech organization and overall delivery.”
A couple tips:
1. Not every meeting will be right for you. I know people who have tried to find a Toastmasters meeting, were turned off by one particular group, and never went back. Just like Alcoholics Anonymous or Weight Watchers, you might need to shop around before you find a group where you can benefit. And, chances are, you can benefit.
2. Even if you don’t think you need Toastmasters (or another public speaking course), videotape your next public speaking event. Will it be painful? Absolutely. Will it cause you to get rid of those ums, stop looking at the floor, and no longer play with your hair (that last one was mine)? Absolutely.
If public speaking is part of your activism, then you owe it to the animals to be nothing short of amazing at it.