Opportunity Knocks!

In July 2015, I was offered a speaking spot at Campbelltown Probus Club on 27 January 2016 by Nola who was on the Executive at the club, whilst we working at an Election Day Polling Booth.

A Probus Club is an organisation for retired or semi-retired business or professional people, and operates worldwide.

In Toastmasters International, we are taught that, ’if you are offered a speaking opportunity then you should take it’ whether that is inside or outside Toastmasters.

Remembering this, at the time, I had absolutely no hesitation in saying, yes! As Nola began to fill me in some more details, like the speaking time (40 minutes) and audience (up to 120 people), I started to realise the enormity of the experience, compared to what I had done previously…

It is amazing sometimes how fear and doubt can creep into the psyche.

The choice of the topic was left up to me and I decided to speak on the subject of ‘Communicating Creatively’ a subject that is very dear to my Heart. The one thing I didn’t want it to be though was ‘ok, this is what I do’ and that’s it. That would only be an information talk only and if the audience wasn’t particularly interested in photography, poetry, writing or painting then it could be quite dry for them.

What I needed to do was to involve the audience as it is they, the audience who are the most important people during the speech, not the speaker.

There were two main objectives that I had set for the speech:

  • To convey and obtain agreement that we are all creative to some extent
  • To show people ways that they can communicate creatively

One of the best ways to commence a speech is to involve the audience straight away via a question. There were 100 people attending that day and I asked for a ’show of hands’ of those who thought that they were creative in some way? 3 hands went up…

I explained to them that often the word creativity is often thought of only in terms of Arts & Crafts and went on to say that if we were to list all the previous occupations in the room, there would (I imagined) be quite a diverse range or White Collar, Blue Collar workers: Accountants, Engineers, Retail, Teachers, Public Service etc.

Engineers e.g. need to be creative to solve problems, don’t they? Henry Ford wanted 8 cylinders cast in one block. His engineers told him it could not be done. Henry Ford told them to find a way. They used their creativity to solve the problem.

Another show of hands was requested. This time about half the room put up their hands.

After opening their minds as to the fact that they were creative, I began to show them ways I communicate creatively, i.e. through Photography, Writing, Poetry & Painting and how they could too.

The presentation over, a number of people came up to me asking questions and stating that they intended on exploring photography, painting etc. This pleased me.

If I had said no to the opportunity I would have missed out on the following:

  • A chance to converse and connect with 100 people and hopefully inspire them
  • A chance to practice my presentation and public speaking skills
  • Presenting my longest presentation/longest PowerPoint to the largest number of people
  • The chance to present using a microphone
  • A chance at getting another speaking spot with another Not-4-Profit organisation

Was I nervous? Yes, definitely! In fact I was probably 10 times as nervous as when I competed at a Division Final International Speech Contest (a 5-7 minute speech in front of 100 Toastmaster members), probably because this presentation was outside the Toastmasters environment, i.e. the real world.

I said yes to the opportunity because of my involvement with Toastmasters, which has given me the confidence to step outside my comfort zone and take on new challenges.

It is only by practice, making mistakes, revision, more practice etc that we improve. I have a long way to go to get to where I want to be as a Public Speaker but am sure having fun on the journey!

 

David Johnson
March 2016

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2 thoughts on “Opportunity Knocks!

  1. Almost a trial by fire. Being outside your comfort zone for such a significant period of time will serve you well in your future orations outside the sphere ofToastmasters International.

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    1. Thanks Perc. I remember Dad telling me years ago of a time when he had to address 300 Coles Staff members (he was a Manager in Coles at the time) at a meeting in the City, and how nervous he said he was. Dad never went to Toastmasters and was not keen to speak in public. In a small way I can appreciate now what he must have felt like…

      Like

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