The Midyear Conference, or commonly called by its shortened name "Midcon," is an annual event in Toastmasters District 75 in the Philippines aimed at assessing the progress of clubs in each division, and at the same time providing an avenue for learning and most especially having fun and basking in the sun! This year 2011, the Midcon, themed Festive Island, was held last October 22-23 at the paradise island of Boracay!
I'm a novice in the Toastmasters world but in a span of two years, I've gained so much from my Toastmasters learning experience. Not only have I improved my communication skills and gained self-confidence but I have also learned how to deal and connect with different personalities of people--which is one of the essentials in order to succeed in every endeavor. International Director Christine Temblique asked the audience about the most important thing they have learned in Toastmasters during her speech and she said, for her, it is valuing people. The end of effective communication apparently is knowing how to lead and establish ties and relationships with people; thereby, urging them to work for a common goal. This I have realized when being part of the Midcon working committee; you have to keep an open communication. With Midcon Chair Mhel Sillador at the helm, the Midcon 2011 has definitely been a successful one! Click here to know more what happened.
Perhaps, one of the salient highlights of my very first Midcon experience was the Speech to Evaluate contest where I served as a test speaker. I was evaluated by ten contestants and their positive reviews and suggestions for improvement were very enlightening and encouraging. Those were the best evaluations I got so far from fellow Toastmasters. Their words have fired up my passion to step up my public speaking skills and reach excellence. Below is the manuscript of my speech entitled "Esprit de l'escalier."
In the beginning of our Toastmasters journey, when we are put on the spot in a defining moment, we tend to give the best of what we got to nail a performance. But in a spur of that moment, we may get excited and anxious at the same time; we could be overwhelmed by either apprehension or enthusiasm. We often ask: can I do it and deliver, if not excellently but at least properly? Or will I bask myself in a lifetime of humiliation, public speaking turned public shaming? The phrases “What if I did this” and “Had I been” are haunting—and subjectively disheartenment fills the unanswered questions. Another doubt arises: will I do it again?
Public speaking, for some of us, is arguably a monolithic task; notwithstanding, quite an enjoyable activity if one occasionally immerses himself into it. Once, I thought public speaking is the same as merely colorful talking—saying what’s on your mind and that’s just it. Others regard it as a traumatic experience because they fear being criticized. But all of those presumptions are blatantly untrue. When I joined Toastmasters two years ago, I have learned there are more to public speaking than just talking. It’s more of how you say rather than what you say, and not just how you say but how much you need to say. One of the biggest challenges in public speaking every Toastmasters member must take on, apart from overcoming fear, is applying the significance of simplicity and self-control.
Albert Einstein once said, “Things need to be simple, but not simpler.” And making things simple entails the elimination of the unnecessary so that the necessary must stand out. Public speaking needs to be simple. It doesn’t require the usage of highfalutin words to impress the audience nor does it have to be anchored on an arcane subject. All you may need is a topic as plain as a dot and inject an ebullient personality into it and soon you’ll see the dot drawing and painting lines and curves. You don’t even have to tackle a table topics in a matter-of-fact manner; sometimes, you just need a single point and a slice of your personal experience to make a mini-speech interesting and sparkling with inspiration. The necessary is something you have already undergone, which can never be refuted. Your ideas must be driven by succint language and hemmed together based on ubiquitous speech organization patterns and principles we have learned only in Toastmasters.
One of the best learnings I got from Toastmasters is the value of self-control. Standing on a rostrum, we can zealously blurt out anything we want and we are unstoppable until we see the red light. When our time ends and before we realize it, we haven’t said what we’re supposed to say because we lingered on the unnecessary. We should’ve said something that would make a difference in the moment but because time has run out, that’s just esprit de l’escalier. Similarly, this translates to saying the right words at the right time. It takes a lot of discipline to say enough in a limited amount of time, and this is the kind of discipline that distinguishes us as Toastmasters and makes us stand out.
Evaluation is ostensibly a test of simplicity and self-control. We all know the purpose of evaluation is to help a fellow Toastmaster realize his goals as a speaker. It is the very heart of a Toastmasters program. Thus, evaluation doesn’t only have to be direct-to-the-point, but it must also be non-judgmental and non-prejudicial, for public speaking isn’t something we should be ashamed of or be traumatized with. In Toastmasters, we build an amicable environment conducive for learning and growth where nobody is a stranger. Together, we form a family and we build a community. Toastmasters is where we have fun and where we learn.
Being proficient in public speaking is a work in progress—and is achieved, not on the spot, but through tenacity by doing it again and again. As much as how you thrive depends on your own commitment, your success as a speaker relies largely as well on the kind of people that surround you and help you shine and become better. You’re sure you will not be humiliated and you can build self-confidence gradually as there’s always a room for improvement. If we keep an open heart and mind, we’ll find the beauty in Toastmasters is being able to grab the urgency of now—learning how to speak out the right words today would spell out a huge change.