As I get older, my Thursday nights have evolved. During college, Thursdays brought an evening of spirits and celebration. Years later, I now spend my Thursday evenings attending Toastmasters meetings. Sorry Millennials, this has nothing to do with “Thirsty Thursdays.” Toastmasters International is a communication movement, helping individuals perfect the art of speaking, listening, and thinking – all vital skills necessary to enhance leadership and improve communication. I leaned about Toastmasters while attending a “Speak Like a CEO” Boot Camp hosted byBates Communications. Suzanne Bates is an Executive Coach who specializes in enhancing the communication skills of business leaders and senior-level professionals. One of Suzanne’s post-boot camp recommendations was to find an outlet for public speaking opportunities. I chose Toastmasters.

Tonight was my first prepared speech. I was required to stand in front of the group and talk about myself for 5-7 minutes. Easy – I mean who doesn’t like talking about themselves, right? Wrong. Even though I was allowed to talk about my favorite topic, yours truly, I was still expected to follow the general “rules” of delivering an effective, prepared speech. Some of these rules are as follows:

1) Your speech must have three parts: an open, a body, and a conclusion.

2) You need to effectively weave in examples, stories, or anecdotes to emphasize your main points.

3) You are able to use a brief outline or note cards, but only when necessary.

4) You must maintain eye contact with the audience.

5) You are expected to avoid inappropriate body language at all times.

…etc., etc., etc., making it virtually impossible to actually remember what it is I was suppose to be talking about because I was trying to concentrate on what to do with my hands and whether my voice was audible. Throw in the advice my husband gave me before I left: “Just picture everyone in their underwear like Marsha did” he says. Thanks. I spent the entire six minutes of my speech trying to erase from my mind the image of the group in their underwear.

The whole process was utterly exhausting – until it was over. Then, I sat back and felt good about the fact that it really didn’t do as bad as I expected, and maybe I really do know how to weave in humor and relevant facts to get my point across.

I joined Toastmasters to improve my oral communication skills, so that each time I deliver a speech, I’ll become more confident. My goal is to one day wake up a master at the art of public speaking.

You are reading this post, which means I survived my first prepared speech. The whole experience was actually very rewarding and I am pleased that my “Thirty Thursdays” are now devoted to toasting with the masters of communication.