“Tonight the audience is examining me. Normally they’re just examining my subject matter…and that’s why this evening I am nervous.”
I overheard this line being whispered from a talented speaker just before our local Toastmaster’s public speaking competition was about to begin.
And it set me thinking…
Ultimately I would not have expected to hear such a line from this Toastmaster. He’s a confident, energetic and extremely talented speaker.
But my surprise at his words was surpassed by my amazement at how he had completely hit the nail on the head, yet was also completely wrong (Sorry Simon!).
Simon was completely correct in that his nerves were because on this occasion there would be a group of people specifically and purposely judging him and his delivery – the very nature of a Toastmaster’s competition.
However, Simon was also completely incorrect in his assumption that during a normal speech everyone is focused on his topic and not him.
It’s credit to Simon and reflective of his great speaking ability that he always puts his topic first (not himself) when speaking in front of an audience. He always crafts his speech for his audience, not himself – rule no.1 of public speaking.
But, it is not just his topic that makes Simon a great speaker and it is not just his words that we examine. We do not view Simon with our eyes shut and we do not read his words from a page. Simon’s voice and body are the tools that he uses to convey his message during a ‘normal’ speech and as an audience we always examine and absorb them as he delivers his speech.
In every speech both topic and speaker are intertwined – neither can exist alone.
So what do the previous few hundred words mean?
Simon, and other Toastmaster competition contestants; don’t be nervous because both your topic and you have been inspected by many an audience on many an occassion before and you haven’t let them down yet!
Ps. Despite nerves, Simon did himself proud in both the speech and evaluation contest at Hamwic Speakers in Southampton – March 2011.
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