Speaking has always been my number one weakness. I tend to talk too fast. I am always uncomfortable with silence, and so I always try to fill the gap. I tend to repeat words. I tend to do weird gestures. Speaking, whether in public or even just in small cocktail sessions, has kist never been natural to me.
If you google how you can improve this skill, one of the top recommendations you will see is to join a Toastmasters Club. It is an international club with chapters virtually everywhere that aims to help its members improve their speaking skills. In every session, there are prepared speeches, impromptu speeches and evaluation speeches.
My favorite part about Toastmasters is its openness and welcoming environment. With members having self-selected themselves, they tend to be highly motivated and driven yet also have the humility to recognize that they can still further improve. And so, the highlight of every session for me are the evaluation speeches, where members evaluate every aspect of the meeting from how it is organized to how many “uhms” people utter.
During my PhD, I was fortunate to have been part of Taste and Toastmasters in Amsterdam. The name comes from the fact that food is served in every session (which is unique to that club). I had a wonderful time there, learned tons of things and met some really close friends that I still keep in touch with to this day.
When I moved to Barcelona, I was too unmotivated to join TM once again. I felt insecure about my Spanish skills and so, I did not really think of rejoining. However, now that I’m three years in here, with my Spanish having sufficiently improved, I feel like now is the perfect time to reengage. I have two main motivations:
First, it would be a great opportunity to make new friends again. I just realized that having been a few years here in Barcelona, I’ve become too comfortable with my small social circle. I have not really gone out to make new friends. TM is the perfect opportunity to go out of my comfort zone again and to meet enthusiastic people.
Second, I feel that I have settled on my way of speaking in public. In my work, I have to teach students and deliver presentations on my research. I have settled on my current style and I feel like I need to push myself out there more to experiment and improve further how I connect with the audience.