The JCI Public Speaking Academy is an intense 2 days of learning the ins and outs of delivering a great speech. Looking back, it was a great success and I learned a lot – even though I was absolutely terrified.
On the face of it, Public Speaking Academy sounds like my worst nightmare. On Friday as I left work, I told my colleague that I was attending a Public Speaking Academy over the weekend, adding how much I “hated” public speaking. All the way home, I could not stop thinking about what I’d said. How can a Project Manager, with teams across Europe, be afraid of public speaking? These days, and especially with my job, you just can’t avoid it.
Maybe hate is a strong word. The truth is I’ve always been shy in large groups and when it comes to voice projection, I’d rather run and hide.
By the time I got home, I was a nervous wreck. I kept wondering whether it would matter if I lost the money and canceled my ticket. . After all, how much can you learn in 2 days?
But I chose to calm my nerves. I picked up a pen and I started preparing the outline of my talk. I decided to go with a personal subject as I thought sharing my limiting beliefs with a group of strangers will help me get out of my comfort zone and find my voice.
Saturday morning was an early one. With a 2-hour travel time, I was up before 6am and too tired to be nervous. JCI has a way of throwing you in a room full of strangers who can impact you in ways you never expected. And it wasn’t different that first morning.
The first exercise was extempore, you pick up something out of a bag and have a 1-minute speech around it. I picked up a car, and I thought “this is easy, I just have to mumble my way through it”. Keyword: mumble. Much to my surprise, I did pretty well!.
After the “warm up”, our trainers, Sarah Beckwith and Charlotte Scothern, put us through our paces. They taught us about content (communicating a message and identifying the right type of speech), structure, storytelling. It was super useful, but I found it frustrating trying to remember the main points and incorporating them in my speech. I had to first come up with a sound bite: a memorable sentence or word that will be repeated throughout the speech.We were back at it again the next day. While day one was focused on the speech, day two consisted of body language, voice projection and stage craft, etc.
The public speaking academy wasn’t just about learning how to improve one’s ability to deliver a great, impactful speech, but also to improve on listening skills, and provide useful feedback to other participants. While I found extempore easy, trying to project my voice while reading my speech on paper was another thing. Thanks to feedback from both trainers and other delegates, I felt like I had a breakthrough moment – and much more comfortable with what was to come.
When it came to deliver my speech, I was nervous, scared and exhausted. I had a few bullet points on a piece of paper, and by the time I started delivering the introduction, my brain froze.
But this time, unlike many other times before, I carried on. Ifound myself relaxing and actually moving around the room as I was delivering my speech. Even though I still felt like I could improve or had missed a few points, I manage to project and be heard. The feedback from this exercise brought me to tears on the way home as everyone recognised what I was insecure about and gave me plenty of encouragement. I realised that I was my own obstacle and that all I needed was to get out of my own way and shut down those negative voices in my head (yup, that was while delivering my speech).
Who would have thought that a speech could be written under 48 hours? I would never have believed that possible, nor could I believe it possible to remember the main points of a speech in such a short time.
The Public Speaking Academy allowed me to find my voice. And 5 days later, whenever that little voice in my head reminds me to be soft-spoken, I take a deep breath and project my voice in order to be heard. I even go as far as putting my hand over my ‘gut’ when necessary.
PSA has given me the motivation to continue improving my public speaking skills – something I’ve been postponing for a while, and I plan on doing so going forward. If you’re thinking of attending one of JCI UK Public Speaking Academies, please do. You will not be disappointed!
This post was written by ejilamakangu