2009 was the year I attended the Tony Robbins program Unleash the Power Within. One of the modules I remember Tony had us do was a closed eye exercise. He had us visualize five years into the future.
During that closed eye process I had a vision of myself five years in the future doing what Tony was doing – I was on stage in front of 3,000 people.
I have no plan, no action steps, no milestones, no SMART goal to get me there. Still, it’s been a nice vision to have.
One of the lessons I have learned through my work with Extraordinary Learning and Context Associated is the principle of “hold the vision and fully participate in what comes up”.
About a month ago I had an email forwarded to me that came to my Toastmasters club web site. It came from a staff member at the Royal Elite Academy of International Students; they wanted to know if someone was willing to talk to their students about public speaking.
My decision to respond was a no brainer. Yes, I told them, I’ll come, and I booked a date. I think I was channeling some Tony Robbins and some Captain James T. Kirk energy. “Risk is our business”, “the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too”, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it”, and all that stuff. Plunge into the unknown and figure out how to make it work along the way.
I hadn’t given a one hour presentation before let alone to international students. I imagined there would be a hundred students in the audience and maybe I would close with my Peruvian Woman speech and get them all singing and clapping.
Then I thought that maybe I was being selfish by taking this opportunity all to myself so I let the members of my club and a few other people know about it too, and offered to share the opportunity. That’s what leaders do, find an opportunity, make a decision, form a vision and commit to it, and lead others towards the vision.
Although I had about a month and a half advance notice before the scheduled presentation a lot of the preparation work came together in the days before the due date. Until days before the presentation date it looked like I would be giving the entire presentation myself, but backing out was not an option.
During the preparation stage I learned that our audience size would be 15 students, age range 14-19.
It was only days before the due date that two people confirmed that they would also help. Josephine Mallari who is a member of First Burlington Toastmasters, and David Marsh who is a fellow member of the Garden City Toastmasters. With days to prepare and bring everything together we did not have time to create a lot of material; most of the agenda was previous material that was being recycled and repurposed to fit the vision.
There were moments when I felt like I was herding cats but in the end we came together as a three-part team and brought it all together. In the end our audience size was seven. Not 3,000, not 100, not even 15, but seven.
Josephine led the audience through an interactive workshop in which she had them present a story using only pantomime. She rocked as the workshop facilitator and the students expressed a side of themselves that surprised even their teacher. David gave some tips on public speaking and drilled it in that the number one rule of public speaking is that it is for the audience.
For a bunch of Toastmasters that are used to giving 5-7 minute speeches the idea of speaking for an hour may be intimidating. However one lesson I learned that day was that there is no such thing as an hour-long speech – only a series of 5-7 minute speeches strung together and made to flow. We may have been concerned about holding the attention of teenage students for an hour but in the end even an hour and a half was not enough time.
Being at the front of a classroom of 7 students is not the same as being on a stage in front of 3,000 but hey – this is only Year 3 of that five-year vision; I still have two years to go!
- Press Release: Garden City Toastmasters 60th Anniversary of Toastmasters in St Catharines (gctoastmasters.wordpress.com)
- Toastmasters Icebreaker (thegirlbehind.com)
- Half way through Toastmaster’s competent communicator manual, it’s one of my career goal. (parasdoshi.com)