Have you ever been asked to give a presentation? After the butterflies start to assemble in some sort of formation, the next question is “how long do I have to speak?”
“You want me to talk for h-o-w l-o-n-g?” “Twenty minutes, please.” “Oh no, I could never talk for that long. How about five minutes?” We finally settled on ten minutes which still seemed like an eternity. Did you ever notice how time takes on such different meaning depending on the task at hand? Ten minutes to play video games seems far too short to a child but that same child will think that ten minutes of sitting quietly in the corner for misbehaving is an eternity.
Knowing that you are to stand in front of a group and speak for ten minutes, you suddenly knew exactly how the child felt sitting in the corner. The child actually had the better end of the deal. The child did not have to speak or face anyone.
What to say became the powerful question. Logic says you were asked to speak because the subject is something you know. Take comfort in the fact that you have knowledge people want you to share with them. Your knees may shake, your palms may suddenly feel clammy, and you develop a lump in your throat the size of Texas but you will live through the experience. Yes, I truly promise you that your hair will not suddenly turn gray and fall out before your eyes simply because you have one experience of testing your presentation skills.
Speaking for ten minutes does not make you a motivational business speaker or even a professional inspirational speaker. Ten minutes is not an eternity even though it may feel that way when you are in the process of attempting to extract coherent words from your trembling body. Believe it or not, your presentation skills will improve with practice.
Toastmasters clubs start the new member with an “ice breaker” speech of four to six minutes. In some cases, people grip the podium with white knuckles as if the podium could take flight and plunge them off the edge of the cliff. They all live through the experience and come back for more practice.
If your presentation skills are of the white knuckle variety, Toastmasters may be a great idea. Standing in front of a group and speaking becomes easier with practice. Your goal may never be to become a professional inspirational speaker or even a motivational business speaker. You will feel more relaxed in conversations and more confident in business meetings when you improve your communication skills.
After practicing a few times, ten minutes may seem more like the time span of the child playing video games than the child sitting in a corner.
Speaking to a group may never be your favorite activity, but it will no long strike terror in your entire body. Speaking comfortably before a group is actually a good skill.