Last week I wrote about stepping out of our comfort zone.
Whether you’re a speaker of English as a Second Language (ESL), English as a Common Language (ECL) or English as a Native Language, many of us struggle with self-confidence when we have to get up to speak in front of people.
For speakers of ESL and even speakers of ECL, part of that lack of confidence can be helped by correcting the sounds that cause confusion.
But for all of us, there’s still an emotional component that has nothing at all to do with vocal mechanics. The idea of simply getting up to face a group of people we may or may not know and talk to them is absolutely terrifying.
Now public speaking skills can be taught. I coach those skills. But getting the practice to use those skills, that’s something else. Practising in front of a mirror will help. It’s good, but it’s not enough. You need to face people. And Toastmasters provides the perfect place.
At Toastmasters, I watch speakers of ESL, speakers of ECL and native English speakers alike get up and challenge themselves to talk on a regular basis. Their courage is admirable and contagious.
Sometimes they’ll give a speech from memory. Sometimes they’ll get up to speak on a random “table topic,” with no preparation at all.
Sometimes, they’ll take on one of the weekly roles:
- One person will announce how long each speech was.
- Another will ask questions about the content to see it people were listening.
- Still another will provide a word of the week for vocabulary building.
The point is that there are always opportunities to get up and speak in front of members and guests.
And that’s what’s important. Stepping out of your comfort zone and speaking publicly.
There’s a wonderful saying that I absolutely love:
The comfort zone is a beautiful place to live, but nothing grows there.
Toastmasters is a beautiful place – a comfort zone of unwavering support in the joy and exuberance of its members. But every time you give a speech or wade into the deep and sometimes troubled waters of “table topics,” every time you take on a role, you step out of your comfort zone and grow.
Every week there are lessons to take away: in the shared camaraderie of watching and giving speeches and the universal hesitation of taking on table topics; in the gentle guidance of the speech “evaluators” and the smiles and applause that greet every single person who gets up to speak.
Toastmasters is a wonderful community that welcomes strangers with open arms, no matter what their age, and encourages but never pressures them to participate.
I can’t think of a better way and a more caring environment for speakers of ESL, ECL and native English speakers alike to build up your confidence. Find a branch near you and check it out.
And don’t forget to watch this week’s One-Minute Words on The Canadian Pronunciation Coach YouTube channel