One of my personal development goals at my job (AmeriCorps service involves setting aside time for such) was to increase my presentation skills and confidence speaking in front of others. I’ve had two semester-long classes in this before (one for my B.A. and then for my M.A.). But like many, I don’t have the opportunity to speak in front of others much and it makes me nervous.

So I thought I would try Toastmasters. I visited one group and it didn’t feel like a good fit. So I tried another group, this one held at another tech company. The fit felt better, but only a bit. I found myself not going, and not going again. So I asked myself why. Was the degree of resistance due to dread of public speaking or to something else?

The murkiness lifted today. While I want and need to practice public presentation, the TM style isn’t what I really want. The meetings are structured, with everyone playing certain roles, and there is an air of artifice in the way people speak and address one another that I don’t want. I understand why they follow this protocol. The goal of TM is to get people comfortable introducing guests, speaking extemporaneously, and giving short speeches. But clapping after every single activity week after week feels ludicrous, and I just don’t feel inspired to learn (and practice over and over again) how to introduce a speaker.

The other reason for resistance, I realize, is that membership in Toastmasters requires a good deal of time spent on one’s own preparing a speech. I have plenty going on in my life. I am not able to spend time on my job preparing those speeches, and I’m not jazzed enough by the TM program to do it on my own time. Also, there is an expectation when one joins that one will try to attend every single meeting. Sometimes people can’t make it, and that’s understood, but they need to rely on members to fill the various roles weekly. I just don’t want the expectation placed on me.

So I talked with my supervisor today about it, and we agreed to abandon the activity. A little brainstorming revealed a better project. What I really want is to develop workshops focusing on personality and creativity and its applications at work and home. I’ve got books on order and I’m to provide a mini-session to my AmeriCorps team in May. My supervisor agreed this would be an excellent opportunity to develop the curriculum, to work out the kinks in the material and my presentation. Then I can offer this to other volunteers. Again, a safe environment in which to practice so I can someday use this after I’m done with this service. I’m very excited about this. I also am trying to negotiate other less business-oriented public presentation experiences as part of my plan. Perhaps I could participate in a poetry slam. Or take an acting class. She was dubious, but I’ve got this percolating and we’ll see what comes of it.

Regarding my post about my “hobby ADD,” thank you to all who have commented and emailed me. Two people mentioned a book that I have since purchased and am reading (it’s part of my research for aforementioned workshops!). It’s called The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One. The other two books I ordered are: Breakthrough Creativity: Achieving Top Performance Using the Eight Creative Talents and Creativity and Personality Type : Tools for Understanding and Inspiring the Many Voices of Creativity.

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3 Comments on “Redirection”

  1. elsie Says:

    If you change your mind about the whole public speaking thing, I’d highly recommend Speaking Circles ( as a gentler, more authentic & spiritual alternative to Toastmasters. Speaking Circles utterly cured my fear of public speaking, and left me more at home with myself. (And I’m not affiliated with them in any way, other than being a very satisfied customer.)

  2. Kathryn Says:

    Thank you for that information. I’ll definitely look into it!

  3. cicada Says:

    Late last year, I was given an assignment at work to train all the writers in our organization on a new process for analyzing and modeling information. The new process requires a considerable change in the way we think about information and in the way we work as writers in this particular group, and there are about 100 writers, all of whom we expected to resist or oppose the new process.

    My co-presenter and I spent a lot of time developing the slides and materials, gave a couple of pilot classes for people who were already well-versed in the new process, and asked for a lot of critical reviews. The first pilot went well enough, but the second pilot went so badly that I had to leave the room three times to be sick. By the time we gave the first official class, though, I was surprisingly unafraid or nervous.

    Now, I am giving an online/phone version of the presentation a couple of times a month and am actually enjoying it. You know how much I fear speaking in a group, but I have learned that for me, at least, the key to being a good presenter or trainer is that initial preparation. The participants in the original pilot courses put us through a rigorous round of Q&A, and though I hated it (and them!) at the time, I have been grateful for that experience during every subsequent presentation.

    I may never be a great public speaker, but this has actually turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I sincerely hope that your experience is every bit as good!