Last weekend, as I mentioned, I went to New Jersey for a leadership conference, actually it’s called Leadership Training School. I wasn’t there really as a participant but as a volunteer, but I got to sit in on some of the sessions.
I think on Thursday, although it could’ve been Friday, we did one activity using the True Colors personality test. I’m a Green. Ok well, actually all my scores were really close, but Green was out on top. Anyway, we all broke up into our colour groups to discuss what it means and how it affects our leadership style and how to deal with people of different personality colours. There were so many Greens we split into two groups. After our own group discussions, all the groups returned to the main room and each group had someone go up to the microphone and say how their colour sees themselves and how others see them. Since there were two green groups we split the job and because noone else wanted to go up, I went up. The other green talked about how we see ourselves and then it was up to me to say how the others saw us.
So I go up to the mic, not having really paid a lot of attention to the discussion, so briefly eyeing over the handouts. I’m not sure what I said, just something about “Now I’m going to tell you how all of you see us Greens, supposedly”. Laughter. Great big laughter. It stunned me, I wasn’t expecting to get a laugh from that – and no they weren’t laughing at me. It was just weird to be in a room of around 200 women and they all found me amusing. The next thing I said was meant to be funny, and they laughed again (somthing like, “Because of our superior intellect you find us to be intellectual snobs, we’re sorry that we’re right 98% of the time, but you probably just take that for arrogance”)
Anyway, I got a few laughs in the whole 2 minutes, if that, that I was up there. What I really found interesting was afterwards, when I was with a friend in the hotel lobby one woman walked by and asked if I did public speaking for work and told me I did really well.
The next few days there were a few more who came up to me and mentioned how hilarious I was. One new friend said it must be the Canadian sense of humour. hmm. I felt really special when a past international president (or as we call them Past Grand Archon) also mentioned that she enjoyed my little Green talk. So I guess I’m a “natural” at public speaking.
Hah! Right! I started thinking back about talking in public; thinking back to those grade school and high school days. Oh yeah, nothing natural about it. I do remember at least once I ran out of the room crying. Yes, that was when I was an Air Cadet and they had a woman from Toastmasters come in to teach us. I was starting my speech – which was just to be about ourselves, but being the only girl in a group of 8 boys made it a bit nervewracking to begin with. Then, earlier that night I had been passed over for promotion for the 2nd time. I was only 12 or 13, can’t handle that much rejection in one night, especially when I was one of the few that showed up for all the Cadet service projects and fundraisers (but I wasn’t a bad ass, therefore unnoticed). So when the woman from toastmasters told me to stop and start over again louder, I just gave up and ran to the bathroom crying. Yup, that was fun.
I know I improved by the end of Highschool since in OAC (grade 13) I was fairly comfortable talking about my independant English project; but afterall I got to choose the topic for that. Sure in Grade 9 and 10 we got to pick our speech topics, but it’s not the same as an independant project.
I know in my university years I always chose to do oral projects when available over written because I knew I could write but I needed practice speaking. I did that too when I did the Summer Language Bursary program in Rivière-du-Loup. Only 2 or 3 of 20 students that summer chose to do Oral presentations on the book(s) we read. (Ok I may have been the only one to read more than a single book in French – I still remember them too, Les Citadines written by our teacher and Le Libraire by Gérard someone, I have the book here somewhere)
And last summer I took the Library instruction course offered. While there wasn’t a huge amount of speaking, there was some impromtu stuff, and our final project was the design and presentation of a program (just to our classmates). We got to video tape ourselves and critique ourselves. My Prof said I was too hard on myself 🙂
So what have I learned? I’m right most of the time…oh and with lots of practice anyone can become a decent speaker.