My list of personal goals has grown ever since I graduated: one of them, public speaking. And, as I'm typing this on BART, I should brainstorm what my real motivations are behind pursuing public speaking. Getting up in front of a crowd wracks the nerves, so why do something outside my comfort zone?
I want to convey ideas to people in the most clear, effective way possible. In presentations and lectures I've made in the past, some students would comment that I speak too fast, and a few would say that my talking points are not always comprehensible. Most people generally like my delivery: the enthusiasm, the visual aids, and use of examples. But, there's always room for refinement.
I want to be able to improvise speeches and arguments. I can make examples on the fly for minor points. I recall performing a demonstration on the spot, in front of 30 students, to explain the meaning of anisotropic effects (shielding?) on hydrogen and how it shifts something called the ppm. (See, I don't even remember the technical terms!) What was memorable was that using my hands and using props helped make the concept clear. But pulling out a two-minute speech out of material that you've hardly prepared for? That's something I'd like to figure out how to do. My friend Chester, a physics study group leader (i.e. teacher), could teach topics cold without prior preparation.
Being able to speak in situations with strangers can help garner positive attention. I used to be very introverted at parties and meetings, refusing to say anything lest others think of myself as an idiot. I've improved a bit since then, knowing how to keep a conversation with someone and not feel entirely left out. Ah, social situations. I should appear on Beauty and the Geek.
Kicking ass at interviews. I feel like my experience in teaching has helped me do well in my job interviews this past semester. In face-to-face interviews, I was able to answer, with excitement and candor, almost all of my questions. In phone interviews, I tried to use tone variations and inflection in my voice to make myself sound like an interesting, desirable person. Now, to be fair, I did not pass all of my interviews, but I have heard that this trait helped.
The battle plan
So, how can I try improving my public speaking l33t skillz? Some past and future activities of mine include:
...teaching at the Student Learning Center (SLC): A friend of mine, Nicole, motivated me to become a study group leader myself at the SLC so I could speak better. So, I enlisted, and I taught organic chemistry for 36 weeks. Learning how to give nearly four hours of lectures, per week, for 12 weeks in a row, nearly killed me in the amount of preparation I had to do. And this was in organic chemistry, a subject I had not, at the time, completely mastered. Teaching has done a enormous amount of good for me. I am no longer afraid to face groups or even crowds of students. If I do not know a particular topic, I can simply give a brief apology and direct my audience to someone who does know that topic. I can sustain walking around on stage for two hours (which really kills the legs!).
Participating in a Toastmasters club: My father recommended this, so I've been attending different Toastmasters clubs to see which was right for me. There are Toastmasters clubs in almost every other city. Members usually meet once a week for an hour or two, pick three victims to give speeches, who then deliver such speeches. The audience then gives their constructively criticism to them. Another component, "Table topics," features rapid-fire 3-minute impromptu speeches on topics members aren't prepared for. Toastmasters meetings is something very much worth doing.
Volunteering in speaking capacities: I just found out two great volunteer activities I may do that will serve me in other areas of my life: (1) guide in the El Camino Hospital, and (2) First Aid/CPR instructor at the American Red Cross.
College courses: There's a nearby community college that features courses in voice inflection, basic speaking, and more.
Again, there is quite a bit I can do to keep on improving my l33t skillz. :) I feel that public speaking will do an enormous amount of good towards communicating with others, to keep me out of my shell, and to meet new people without fear. Let's see how this goes!
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Ah, Berkeley station. It's good to be back on the East Bay!