When I was in the 12th grade, my English teacher assigned book reports. We were required to give a five-minute summary of the assigned book. A girl was to present just before my turn. As she stood before the class to speak, she started to stutter and wobble. She then fainted and hit the floor at my feet on the front row. After she awoke and was taken to the nurse’s office, my teacher said it was my turn. Gripped with fear, I refused. She threatened a failing grade. No problem, fail me. I received a “D” for the class that year, but that was fine with me. There was no way I would stand up before the class to speak.
After leaving school and starting a career in sales three years later, it became apparent that I couldn’t escape public speaking. I joined Toastmasters to overcome my fears. I was told that I was the worst speaker they had ever met, but since I’m so competitive I stuck with it. After three years of weekly meetings, I was volunteering for speaking engagements, ultimately being named as the top speaker in the state of Florida by a business organization.
Public speaking has served my career well. I’ve given over 2,000 speeches and have built a very successful practice as a result of being able to effectively address an audience.
There are numerous venues that will be glad to have interesting speakers. Many clubs have annual events that could use good speakers with an interesting topic, such as investing. There are senior centers that need a speaker every month to spice things up a bit. There are travel clubs, women’s clubs, service organizations, business clubs, fairs, swap meets, festivals, hospitals, military events and many others. As an effective speaker, you can become popular event at referral clubs.
On a level that is more directly related to the financial practice, you can create events. These events can offer meals, but that’s not necessary with a good topic and good information.
Many churches can be helped by a knowledgeable advisor. You can present to government agencies or school faculties. Local firefighters and police unions can use speakers that are energetic, interesting and bring a good message that is informative and helpful. How about presenting to employees on the topic of how to invest in your 401(k) plan? You can locate retiring employees by presenting to the whole employee group. Widow and divorce support groups can use good speakers on how to handle finances after a major catastrophic event. Let your imagination run wild. Keep your eyes and ears open for ideas and opportunities.
Here are some recommendations for improvements in public speaking:
- There is no substitute for talking and getting constructive opinions on how to improve.
- Join the nearest Toastmasters club available in your area.
- Attend every meeting for at least three years, and participate at every opportunity available.
- Volunteer to speak on any topic that any organization will allow.
Remember one absolute rule to effective speaking. Emotion rules. Always try to illustrate your points with a story that adds emotion to the presentation. There is always a way to do it. At one seminar, I needed to impress the audience that I care about my clients. Rather than saying “I care,” I told a story about how I helped the client buy a car. The story was emotional and made my point. A good Toastmasters club will teach you all the fine points of how to speak in public effectively and gain a favorable response from your audience.
Many other presentation pointers can be learned by participating as a speaker and learning as you continue to practice. Take the first step and don’t tell me you don’t have the time. Make the time, it’s important!