Many of you know that I’m interested in public speaking.
I joined the Toastmasters organization in 2014, both to improve my skills and with an eye toward their highest honors. This is a little unusual for me – I’m not much of a joiner, and I usually guard my free time pretty well. But speaking is something I enjoy, something I do well, and something I could theoretically spin into a career change at some point. Getting the initials after my name seems like a good start to that idea.
(Also unusual, in that I’m not much of a planner, but that’s neither here nor there.)
One of the last speeches you give to your club is a “Persuasive” speech, where your goal is to get your listeners to agree with your points, or take some concrete action. The only way I could measure this, I thought, was to convince people to buy a copy of my first Gentleman Ghouls novel, FAMISHED: THE FARM.
Bear in mind my club is largely composed of women slightly older than myself. I expected horror would be a hard sell, and that if I could make my case, I’d be able to judge my success. I used my earlier blog post on the value of horror as the baseline for the speech and amped up the ending with a call to action using horror as a means of self-knowledge and self-improvement.
80% of the audience bought a copy.
This would be enough of a success, but two other things happened that I want to share.
After that speech, we went into “Table Topics.” This is impromptu speaking, where the facilitator calls up members and gives them a question to answer. I’m going to my first Table Topics competition in two weeks, so I go first in the meeting.
I delivered a three-minute speech on confidence and its appearances, detailing my own journey from low self-esteem to the raging egomanic you all know and worship today. I also gave pointers on how to fake that confidence, which is in many ways the first step I took to real confidence.
After that speech, every member got up and spoke. All of them, even one who suffers most from nerves and a fear of speaking. He later said that my one-two punch about facing your fear and showing confidence inspired him to get up and speak, and some of the others backed him up.
But it gets better.
One of our newest members is a college student and personal trainer at our fitness center. My previous speech was based on my post about the benefits of books and reading. Not only did he buy a copy of my book, but he came up to tell me that speech had inspired him to get his very. First. Library card.
I personally inspired someone to go to the public library, sign up, and start reading for fun.
I’ve done some cool things in my life, and many things I’m proud of.
But knowing that my love of books and the institution of libraries got someone who hadn’t read for pleasure in years in the door?
Yeah. I might put that one on my tombstone.