The beating heart.
Beating rabidly, Thumping to a crescendo, pounding against the chest. There is a heightened sense of feeling; a feeling of nervousness, a feeling of being light in the stomach and a feeling of your mind going completely blank on you. Suddenly you realize that it’s just you and you only. Against the whole world. And they’re all watching you; watching your every step, your every move. And you stand there in front of them, numb, blank and speechless.
They say that the human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.
I remember the first time I was asked to make an impromptu speech (Of course, I had prepared for two weeks for that impromptu speech!). At the faithful moment, my mind suddenly went blank and I started blabbering nonsense; and that too, nonsense peppered liberally with ‘aahs’ and ‘umms’. I had no clue what I was talking about. Luckily for me, I was not alone. No one in the audience had any idea what I was talking either. After I made that speech (!), I didn’t know if I should have just killed myself or run away from any known living civilization. Well, unfortunately for my audience, I did neither.
History recognizes great speeches. Mark Antony changed the course of roman history with one speech. Churchill spoke and galvanized a nation into combative battle mode. Martin Luther King mesmerized an entire generation by speaking of his dream.
I’m just not there yet. In my many attempts at public speaking, it is usually the public who does the speaking. In fact, at one point in life, I considered it lucky that my audience didn’t run away when I spoke; I remember a particular instance when my speech had drawn a surprisingly large crowd; my happiness was short lived when later my friend told me the audience stayed back because they were serving snacks after my speech.
But I am trying. Word by word by word. Day after day after day. And it is quite an effort. I’m part of Garden’s City Toastmasters Club, the oldest Toastmasters club in Bangalore (in fact, the oldest Toastmasters club in India :)). The Toastmasters Movement is a global nonprofit organization offering a proven - and enjoyable! - way "to practice and hone communication and leadership skills".
And it’s wonderful being part of a group of people united by the passion to be a better speaker and divided only by degree of enthusiasm in doing so. And the thumping heart, sweaty palms and blank mind are routine affairs at the weekly meetings. But we get better with each speech. With each feedback. With each week. The prepared speeches allows one to explore new subjects to talk about. Also, it helps us improve our diction, grammar and pronunciation. The feedback tells us what we did right and how we could improve ourselves. The most exciting part is the table topics section, where we need to speak on the spot on the subject shot at us.
This is only the start of a journey; a journey of understanding oneself, of “awakening the sleeping giant within” and of honing and tuning communication and leadership skills. It’s also about making life more livable, about giving more meaning to the words coming out of the mouth and about enriching your relationships. And of having fun all the way.
Someone once said ” It’s only words and words are all I have, to take your heart away.”
I totally agree.