Sunday, March 4, 2012

Making impromptu speaking into a nightmare experience

Last Friday, on Life as a Human, Gil Namur blogged about why Speaking in Public is not a Game. He described having attended a four day sales and marketing conference where one of the main events for 700 people on the 2nd day was an impromptu speaking "game." Three sales representatives were put on stage, given a topic and two minutes to prepare, required to speak for two minutes, and then judged like in the Olympics. The woman chosen to go first faltered after a minute, then left the stage and the meeting hall. She was so humiliated that she flew home that day, and quit her job a month later.

Gil compared that cruel game to throwing someone who isn’t trained to swim into the deep end of a pool. They might survive that baptism, or they just might drown. The conference had included smaller break-out sessions, so they could have first given people practice at impromptu speaking to smaller audiences.

Toastmasters International includes practice on impromptu one to two minute speeches in their club meeting programs. They call that section Table Topics. It can be rough going even for some with lots of sales experience.

Table Topics is a completely different skill than speaking from a prepared sales script. It’s like playing a jazz solo versus performing classical music you’ve rehearsed extensively with sheet music. At first I found it to be very intimidating, but eventually I got used to it, and finally even started to enjoy myself.

The painting of a Man on a diving board is from Wikimedia Commons.

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