Considering public speaking? Talk about confidence!

A number of my readers have noted, by way of my Linked In profile, that I have been a long-time member of an organization called Toastmasters International.  While I am not a     current member, my association with Toastmasters lasted over ten years.  Many have asked me to write about professional speaking, or have contacted me for tips and advice.  This interest has prompted me to post the article below.  I was invited to contribute the article after a number of others I had written appeared in a regional publication.  This article was first published in the Toastmasters International Magazine in 2005. 

Talk About Confidence

If you asked me to choose the single greatest benefit I could claim as the result of my Toastmasters experience, I would choose confidence.  With so many skills and techniques to be learned, confidence can be the most elusive.  Confidence is stealthy.  It creeps up on you, slowly at first, building in intensity until one day you realize it’s there.

Confidence is not the thing that propels you to the front of a room to give a talk.  That’s courage.  Confidence is not what gives you the ability to speak fluently and elegantly on your topic.  That’s expertise.  Nor is confidence the way in which you move about the platform, your emphatic gestures or your booming voice.  That’s presentation style.  The actual   substance of your contribution is derived from standing in your truth,  more subtle than mere flash.

Confidence is quieter.  It comes from the knowledge that no matter the calamity or crisis, you can trust your ability to cope gracefully. Confidence is that esoteric something that can be difficult to describe, yet you know it when you see it.

Confidence is acquired, not given.  It is an idiosyncrasy of our language that we say, “That really gave me a lot of confidence.”  I tend to think of confidence given gratuitously as that which is temporary, such as a compliment.  It can be fleeting, when, for example, you are the recipient of an unflattering remark ten minutes later.  Instead, think of confidence as the result of a simple mathematical equation:  Time plus experience equals confidence.

The first portion of the equation, time, is a constant.  Time elapses, whether you like it or not, and eventually you will have accumulated a substantial body of work upon which to draw.  The second part of the equation is the variable.  Experience is simply trial and error, trial and success.  You must have both, or there will be nothing that can be learned.  In any competition, it is the person who comes in at second place who gains the most from the experience.  It is the second place winner who picks apart his performance, analyzes every angle, and strategizes the next step to success. No one likes to lose, but if you are at all competitive you will use the next attempt and the experience of coming up short to win.  How many times have you said, "I won’t make that mistake again"?  Knowledge is one of the ingredients that makes experience a variable.  We choose to learn from our mistakes.

Confidence doesn’t come from being told that you are good, it lies in knowing that you are good.  From there, greatness is an exercise.  It’s up to you to use time and experience to your fullest potential.  This may require new choices, but by that time you will have earned the confidence you will need to go as far as you desire.  You will also possess the skills and experience that will enable you to teach others.  Talk about confidence!





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