The Introduction you are about to read comes from my latest book, Confidently Speaking – The Speaker's Guide To Standing Ovations, Published June 30, 2021.
Public speaking is the great equalizer. No matter who you are, where you come from, or the size of your bank account, natural fears surrounding public speaking levels us all to an equal playing field. As we anticipate taking the stage, what happens? Without warning or welcome, our knees turn to jelly, our throats turn to cotton. Fears of failure become a magnetic, almost self-fulfilling prophecy, as we draw to us the very failures or upsets we wish to avoid.
When we conquer our fears of public speaking, one of the most awesome fears known to mankind, we realize we can conquer just about anything. The good news is the fears we conquer come from within us, not outside us. Thus, while we can create our own fears, we can dissolve our own fears too. We are, quite
literally, the creators of our own Heaven and Hell.
The book you are about to read is your personal pathfinder to guide you on your way toward improved and empowered speaking, listening, and leadership skills. Here is the short version of how this worked for me.
In the schoolyards of yesteryear, some of you may have seen or been my kind. The lonely, lumpy, misfit kid who lived in a tall, wooden ball box during recess. While all the other kids merrily played with the balls, I would jump into the box. So painfully introverted, I sat alone in the ball box, hoping against hope, someone would come play with me.
After a while, that box became a way of life. Safe inside my walls, the box became a personality.
To put a finer point on this, finally a personality test was given and revealed the problem. Out of a possible Negative 50 points for being the most introverted person on the planet, rather like the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, whose last days were spent alone in a penthouse wrapped in cellophane, I scored Negative 40. I was 10 points and a few of doors down from Howard, feeling as he may have, wrapped in my invisible, personal cellophane, unable to get out.
Sometimes what we lack in our lives becomes the inspiration or fuel to propel us with even more vigor to resolve the lack. For me, I lacked the ability to get beyond my self-created barriers to effectively communicate. I needed to redirect my thinking from victimhood to victory. But how?
The best way out is through—not by flank attack— but running straight at the problem. I joined one of the finest communication and leadership programs in the world: Toastmasters International. Globally known as a supportive environment for communication and leadership, Toastmasters shines like a beacon, particularly for people like me.
In 1993, almost 30 years ago, I dropped in with all the vigor of a new fad diet, a diet I relish through today. Through speaking and leadership programs, I evolved from a silent, almost morose woman—starting from the back of a pizza parlor’s backroom—to entertaining audiences around the world.
Friends say I am the most awarded Toastmaster they know, having achieved the following titles: Distinguished Toastmaster. Toastmasters Triple Crown Award winner, three times. Outstanding Member Achievement Award, twice. First Place winner District 57 Toastmasters International Speech Competition: 2005, 2010, 2012. Toastmaster of the Year, 2004. Writer for Toastmasters Magazine.
Out of them all, the most important gift and reward is mentorship. My experience is extensive: serving as the Mentorship Chair for Toastmasters; implementing many mentorship programs; mentoring members from different clubs, as well as a private clientele.
“If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” said Sir Isaac Newton. So true. Without the tremendous, non-stop guidance from countless mentors, this introvert could not have traveled from a pizza parlor to three 60-foot stages with audiences of thousands at the World Championships of Public Speaking.
Paying it forward is my passion, bringing to life the old saying, “You cannot keep it until you can give it away.” All the years of public speaking and service cannot come down to plaques on my wall and trophies gathering dust in my trophy case. The love and support I have been blessed to receive in this program, I share with others. Those who taught me and who brought me here, come to life with every passing word.
There are plenty of ’Self Help’ books in the bookstores today. They are no longer called ’Self Help’ books in an effort to dispel the notion we need help. These days they are called ’Self-Improvement’ books. The truth is, we need a lot of help. I have yet to find a book entitled, ’How to Help Others,’ which is why this manual was created for you.
As a select three-time finalist in the Toastmasters International World Championships of Public Speaking, you will hear the years of experiences, secrets, lessons, and mentorship I was fortunate to receive and now, impart to you. Let us begin and look forward now as I assist you in crossing your winning finish line, Confidently Speaking.
Like my mentors, Confidently Speaking is a 24/7 guide helping students around the world. To teach what is learned is to keep what is learned. Teaching and Learning are the two sides of the same coin called Knowledge. Knowledge works best when put into practice. In order to grow Knowledge, like a garden, it must be cared for and tended. May your gardens of Knowledge bloom from Confidently Speaking, bringing you a full and lasting return.
My prayer is to transition from this world to the next having truly lived out my destiny; having completed the Soul Purpose for which I was born. May I be remembered as one dedicated toward service and the betterment of others.
May I be a blessing, a boat, a beacon, a bridge. A lighthouse for other lighthouses, reminding one another that peace and light will prevail on Earth. This day, now and always.