The Art of Speaking  

Resolve to listen better

Resolve to be a better communicator in 2017

By Alan Warburton

When considering New Year’s resolutions, getting over the fear of public speaking often comes to mind. It is estimated that about 75 per cent of us experience some degree of anxiety or nervousness about public speaking.

There’s even a name for it: glossophobia. But while public speaking may not come naturally to most of us, it is a skill that can be acquired.

In 2017, I believe it is more important than ever before.

When we look around, we see couples on dates staring at phones instead of gazing into each other’s eyes. Pedestrians shuffle mutely along sidewalks or stand aside at bus stops, eyes fixed on their screens.

Companies complain they can’t find workers who know how to relate well to customers.

We need to stop texting and start listening. We need to share the vital exchanges that make the differences in all our lives … and not just on social media. We need to stop hiding behind our phones, and start speaking to each other again.

The best public speakers in the world are rewarded handsomely for their efforts. People like Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Lance Armstrong, and Richard Branson command six-figure fees for their speeches.

While few people will achieve that level of influence, the best speakers are richly rewarded, both in the professional and the personal arena.

Learn how to give a compelling speech, make a dynamic sales presentation, and confidently lead a meeting, and just watch what happens to your career.

In fact, nearly one-third of all Fortune 500 companies now host in-house speaking clubs. They know that successful companies grow their own leaders.

Apply those same skills to your everyday life. This could mean asking a banker for a loan, negotiating a better price on a large purchase, learning how to lead a group of volunteers, handling a cranky neighbour, or dealing with the parent-teacher meeting in a poised and confident way.

Of course, the only way to get used to speaking to people … is by speaking to people.

  • Find a buddy and take turns giving impromptu speeches
  • Sign up for a speaking course at your local community college or university
  • Hire a professional public speaking consultant for one-on-one coaching
  • Or join Toastmasters, an international non-profit organization dedicated to the communication and leadership development. 

You can find a club and meeting schedule convenient to you at www.toastmasters.org, and attend a meeting as a guest.

You will see members giving and receiving tactful, supportive feedback not just on their speaking but on meeting protocol, timing, choice of words, and delivery.

Above all, you’ll see friendly energy and good humour.

Garth Coward is a retired communications director with the B.C. government. During his career, he was called upon to give presentations to senior managers, and joined Toastmasters to gain more confidence in doing so.

He has now been a part of his home club, Thunderbird Toastmasters, for 19 years, and says it is a secure, safe environment for new members to find their voice. One unexpected benefit of joining was becoming a better listener.

“Most people are coming up with their reply while others are speaking. Toastmasters teaches you how to listen.”

Intrigued? In a Monday presentation, called Toastmasters: Where leaders are made, Irish raconteur and Toastmasters Past International President Ted Corcoran will share his entertaining perspective about the best way to become a better communicator.

Members of the public are invited to hear him, for free, at Rotary Centre for the Artsʉ۬at 421 Cawston Ave.,

7-9 p.m.

Please visit www.d21toastmasters.org for details.

Corcoran will also be speaking to Toastmasters Sunday, Jan. 15, at Okanagan College's Learning Centre — the five-storey building in the middle of the campus — in Kelowna, but the public is also invited.

It is also free.

He will speak twice. His first talk at 11:20 a.m. is entitled Ted's Ted Talk, and the second, at 2:20 p.m., is called Understanding yourself as a leader.

New Year's resolutions often fail because they are based on sacrifice, like giving up smoking or sugar or carbs. But the ability to communicate effectively will add immeasurably to your repertoire of life skills, and benefit you in more ways than you ever thought possible.

Alan Warburton, a Toastmaster for 14 years, has twice qualified for the semi-finals of the world championships of public speaking. He is the District 21 director overseeing 150 B.C. clubs.


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About the Author

The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment that offers every member the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are eight Toastmasters clubs in the Central Okanagan.

For more information and/or to find a club near you, check http://www.toastmasters.org.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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