I wrote this into a speech and I think the imagery is so catchy that I want it published here first, so if anyone lays claim to it, I have proof that I said it first.
Here's the text of my speech, to be given at Cleveland City Hall, for a demo Toastmasters meeting, on 20 March 14.
Imagine you’re on the top of a sledding hill, covered with snow.
Not hard to imagine, is it?
At the bottom of the hill are cups of hot chocolate, or hot coffee, or hot toddy. This is your goal.
Around you stand all the people in this room. Around all of us lie pieces of equipment. An inner tube. A
sled. A toboggan. Snowshoes. Bobsled. Skis. A tennis racquet. Ice skates. A helicopter.
You can choose any piece of equipment you want to get to the bottom of the hill.
Most often, when people talk about reaching a goal, the imagery is UP. The mountain top. The skies.
The moon. The stars. I like down. Especially when talking about public speaking because it’s EASY.
Many of you don’t think that public speaking is easy. There’s that theory that more people fear public
speaking than death… that’s a made-up statistic, you know. No one ever did a survey that asked that
Toastmasters makes learning to speak in public easier. Not necessarily easy but easier.
Think about the equipment around us on the hillside. Inner tube, sled, toboggan, snowshoes, bobsled,
helicopter, tennis racquet. Ice skates.
Learning how to speak in public is like getting down the sledding hill.
Now, if you’re going to choose the ice skates to get the bottom of the hill, we need to talk. Maybe you know something I don’t. If you’re going to choose the tennis racquet, well... you let me know how that works out for you. Maybe you’ll ignore all those pieces of equipment and simply walk down the hill yourself.
That’s fine, if you want to go slowly and risk falling down the hillside. Me, I’m an inner tube gal myself.
I’ll be down the hill as fast, as crazy and as bumpy as any inner tube ride can be. Backwards, even.
Some of you may be the same, some may like to take a toboggan together. That bobsled looks fun,
Your personality will determine your method and your speed. If you like crazy fast with risks or if you
prefer to gingerly make your way down on snowshoes, Toastmasters gives you options that no other
program affords. You work at your own speed. You work with your talents and develop your skills in
your own time. I may be screaming “LOOK OUT BELOW” as I barrel down the hill – the goal is to
improve your skills.
What are your goals? (Insert names of people and their goals.)
Let me suggest that maybe there’s something more than just being able to speak to a group.
My college-aged daughter sent me an email yesterday – a copy of email conversation she’d had with a club president. The upshot of it is this:
President: You weren’t at the meeting today.
Clara, my daughter: No, I thought it was canceled.
President: You’re now in charge of the Chipotle fundraiser.
We laugh, because we all have heard the jokes and even seen it happen: the absent get the tough jobs.
Now, I will say this about my daughter. She’s a natural business woman and she took on the challenge and has made it her own. I have no doubt that the Chipotle sale, which is now a donut sale (bigger profits, less work) will be a smashing success. But it’s not how you want to become a leader.
I’ll say it again: if you communicate, you’ll be seen as a leader. You will be a leader.
When you communicate, you’re perceived as a leader. Whether or not you think of yourself that way, people look at communicators as leaders. Let me tell you my story. When I was in 2nd grade, I joined the Girl Scout Brownie troop at my school. The Scout Leader said, “Gather into groups of 4 and pick a patrol leader.”
Sometimes I do what I’m told, and that day, I turned to the other girls around me and said, “Ok, who wants to be the leader?”
“You do it,” they said.
I spoke up and suddenly, I was a leader.
Now that only lasted 2 weeks because they decided they didn’t like me any more… but that’s another story. When you communicate – with statements or even with questions – people will look at you as a leader. That’s why Toastmasters doesn’t just focus on communication skills. We have a two part program – one half is speaking, but the other is leadership skills.
I can get up here and tell you about the virtues of Toastmasters. How it’s made a huge difference in my life. I can tell you about my friend Greg, who came to the parking lot of the building where our meetings were held for 8 weeks before he came in the door. I can tell you about Mike, who has been a member of Toastmasters for 5 years – and didn’t speak for the first three years until he read a joke from his smart phone. In the end, they found that Toastmasters offered them something they wanted badly enough, they needed so much, that they overcame their shyness to walk through the door and finally speak.
People with crippling fears are welcome. Our program works by giving people the opportunities to try in a safe, fun environment.
Did you remember that I said “Helicopter” in that list?
Toastmasters is the helicopter. You can jump in for the ride down and on your way, you’ll learn how to handle that bird yourself. Maybe it doesn’t look as much fun as an inner tube or a bobsled, but it’s the fastest, most effective way to reach your goals – and you’re less likely to spin out and take out a pack of 8 year olds.
We’re not going to bully you into it. No one yet has been thrown down the hill in Toastmasters.
Toastmasters has tools and proven methods to help everyone improve.
Public speaking isn’t just the goal – it’s the journey up and down the sledding hills in our lives. I invite you
to join me on that journey. Give Toastmasters 6 months and see what kind of communicator and what kind of leader you can become.