by Andrea Garfield-Barkworth for the BP22 Translation Conference in Lisbon. The reality: life!
The plan sounded plain and simple. The deadline reassuringly long. But we all know what happens with the best-laid plans of mice and men and my life is no different. I needed help to prepare for a big conference presentation and what better solution than SOS – Sussex Online Speakers AKA Toastmasters.
Now, I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to public speaking, so I was very apprehensive about how my first meeting would go. No need. SOS is THE perfect club for wallflowers like me who are always looking longingly at the grown-ups’ table.
The pre-meeting meetups are a chatty, informal affair designed to get to know fellow Toasties (a wonderful name coined by fellow-member Ellen Singer). They help calm the nerves of timid folk like me. Explanations of the roles follow, which means quaking newcomers aren’t faced with any nasty surprises.
So, armed with my trusty agenda, I thought to myself, ‘let the meeting begin’. And begin it did. We were treated to inspiring speeches and became privy to helpful hints and tips for improving presentation performance.
But it didn’t stop there. Up next was Table Topics. With heart in mouth, I waited my turn. The old noggin a total blank. Heart racing and breath held tight, I looked at the questioner, terrified I wouldn’t be able to speak. The question is an absolute blur, but I remember opening my mouth and words spilling out like rain on a summer’s day. Nobody laughed, nobody sniggered. Instead, I received praise for my reply. The whole experience was as smooth as it was fun.
The next meeting was a themed one titled, Fairytales with a Twist. I prepared a speech about Red Riding Hood from the perspective of a mushroom. Fancy dress was encouraged, so up I rocked dressed like a member of the fungi family. Don’t ask! But it did involve sombreros and silk. I sat there in my mushroom costume, unable to listen to the speeches with the thought of my impending speech. My palms were sweaty and my blood pressure must have been sky high. Still, somehow I managed to get through it and again received warm words of praise for my use of vocabulary and presentation style. This is great, I thought, and great it is.
Being encouraged to speak and given an opportunity to blurt out something without fear of being mocked is an empowering feeling. The atmosphere in SOS Toastmasters is friendly, warm and welcoming. It is the perfect environment to practise presentation skills and slowly, over time, I have gained confidence to the point where I knew my presenting style in Lisbon would be fine. All I had to do was remember to click for the next slide. Now that’s another story.
Why don't you come to our next meeting to find out for yourself? We meet every 2nd and 4th Monday of each month (except December - 2nd Monday only) at 6:30pm for a prompt 7pm start (that's UK time, currently BST). We'd be delighted to meet and greet you!