Speaking For Success

For today’s blog we welcome Ida Vance, a distinguished Toastmaster.

Most good speakers find success opening with a story, startling facts or an eye opening question that causes the audience to pause and think.

Have you ever wondered why so many people, even today, have a fear of speaking in public? It is said that most people would rather die than have to stand up in front of an audience and speak. Did you know there is even an official name for that fear? It’s called, Glossophobia (the fear of public speaking). Who knew?

Some reports say that one in four people (roughly about 25%) would rather die than speak in public. That is what I call “really” being “scared to death” (no pun intended). I’ve been there…but to die rather than speak before an audience? Frankly, I have always questioned whether those numbers are really accurate. If given a choice between speaking and dying, which one would you choose? YES, I’m with you, and would step out of my comfort zone, feel the fear, and speak anyway. Many believe that the real cause of fear is actually that they don’t want to be embarrassed.

Having said that, I can remember years ago when I first began speaking before groups. I was always nervous. As a volunteer speaker for The United Way, each time I spoke before audiences, large and small, my voice would always crack; I couldn’t make good eye contact because I was so insecure and most of the time, I would read my speeches word for word. Fortunately my time to speak at those various fund raising events was only about 3 – 5 minutes. Whew! I will probably always feel those butterflies in the stomach, as most speakers do, but now the nervousness is redefined as “excitement.”

I realized that each time I spoke, I got better, felt more relaxed, more confident, because of the practice, and more practice, and more practice. I learned that it does not make you perfect, it makes you better. I also learned there are no short cuts.
As Darren LaCroix (2001 Toastmasters World Champion Speaker) would say, stage time, stage time, stage time. You just have to do it.

How about you? Where are you in your speaking life? Do you cringe at the thought of giving a speech, lack confidence, and want to get better? You may be a professional speaker, or a volunteer speaker. You may give a lot of speeches, one or two a year or maybe you have never spoken before an audience and you simply want to be ready, when the opportunity presents itself.

Maybe you just want to increase your knowledge, to gain more self confidence, or be more comfortable conversing one on one. Being a good communicator is one of the most valuable assets you can have. Regardless of whether you get paid to speak or not, remember, if you “talk”, you are a speaker.

There are many steps involved in becoming a great speaker. From my experiences, if you master the five basic steps listed below, you will be well on your way to becoming a more effective speaker.

1. Be yourself – That may sound simplistic, but if you think about it, who else can you be? Your audience will instantly know whether you are authentic or not. Avoid trying to speak or act like other speakers. To connect with your audience, as Craig Valentine, (1999 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking) would say, “Speak to one. Look to all”. Be enthusiastic! Be who you are! Do you!

2. Find your voice – You will always be at your best when you are speaking about topics you are passionate about. Answer the question, “why should the audience care about what you have to say?” Know your audience, speak to their interests. Tell them what’s in it for them.

3. Open with a bang – Within the first 7 seconds the audience will know whether they like you or not. Within the first 30 seconds, they will decide whether they want to hear more of what you have to say. It is ok to memorize your opening. Most great speakers do. They also find success in opening with a story, startling facts or an eye opening question that causes the audience to pause and think.

4. Become a master story teller – People love to hear a good story. Tell a story, and make a main point. Your main point or points should be tied into your message. Your message should be tied in to the relevancy or expectations of your audience.

5. The close – In order to insure an effect close, it is very important to summarize or restate the core message from your opening. First, remind your audience of what you told them. Restate your key points and unless you are just “speaking to inform”, give them a “call to action”. That is to say, what do you want your audience to think, feel or do as a result of hearing your message.

These are just a few of the many techniques that can help you to become the speaker you want to be. An important thing to remember is that any speech should have the feeling that you are having a conversation with one person no matter how small or large the audience. Until next time…

Speaking for Success,

Ida Vance, DTM

Certified Speaking Coach



Published by Coach2Zen

Leader. Facilitator. Inspiring minds and building a leadership community by sharing skills and talents with Zen, the presence of balance, equanimity.

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