When we prepare to publicly speak, whether it’s for a big presentation at work, making a toast at a special event, or simply giving an Ice Breaker speech to our fellow Toastmasters, the mindset we have during the preparation stage will have a lot to do with our performance when the big day comes, as well as our growth as a public speaker.
What are our expectations? Where have we set the bar for ourselves? For a lot of people – particularly us “high achievers” – there is a tendency to use the measuring stick of perfection. Webster’s Dictionary defines “perfect” as “being entirely without fault or defect.”
However, to strive for perfection in public speaking is a fool’s errand and often puts undue pressure on ourselves that only works to undermine our performance when the spotlight is on us.
For example, say you have prepared to be perfect, yet you make a mistake or two right at the beginning of your speech. If perfection is your target, then you might say to yourself “look at me, I’ve already failed” and you’ll likely be thrown off for the rest of your speech.
As the saying goes, “pobody’s nerfect.” So, rather than having a mindset of perfection, a better mindset would be to strive for excellence. Webster’s Dictionary defines “excellent” as “very good of its kind; eminently good.”
If we strive for excellence, it allows us room – room to relax, room to allow ourselves to make mistakes, room to simply be ourselves – while at the same time allowing us to come away from a “less-than-perfect” performance being completely satisfied. This positive experience will also give us something to build on for the next time we publicly speak.
Keep in mind though, striving for excellence, rather than perfection, does not mean putting less effort into our preparation. To the contrary, excellence in performance demands excellence in preparation, but just make sure to give yourself room to breathe and be yourself along the way.
Most of us enjoy meeting new people, sharing our stories for the first time, listening to other experiences, and still, the word networking, which consists of exactly those things, has a bad connotation for most people.
Why networking? While choosing between 13 topics for my pathway project, networking was the one topic I really wanted to avoid. Yet, one of the habits I adopted joining Toastmasters, is to choose the option that throws me the farthest away from my comfort zone, so I did choose networking eventually.
The project was to attend a networking event with the promise that it will have a positive influence on my confidence. This was not my experience in the past. Typically, at the end of networking events, I would feel disappointed, mostly at myself, discouraged, and less confident. Furthermore, the project’s recommendations were relevant to an in-person networking event while in our current situation, networking looks very different.
The new networking I recently attended an online networking event which I refer to as the new networking. At the end of the meeting, I felt better than any previous networking event. I felt content, energized, motivated, and even supported. I believe this kind of new networking should not be neglected when in-person meetings come back to our lives. Here I will try to explain why and provide a couple of suggestions on how to make the most of this new form.
Location I attended a virtual happy hour hosted by an organization called AWWEE (Association of Women in Water, Energy & Environment). I have been following this organization for a long time. They had many networking events in the past which were at least a 1.5-hour drive from me, which made it impossible to squeeze into my schedule. For this reason, I missed many opportunities to network in this organization and others that interest me. I was happy to find that they host an online meeting that I could finally attend. The new networking makes the location of the organization irrelevant. Now, more than ever, we can network and get acquainted with people from organizations all over the world, and it takes about 5 minutes to get there (open a computer, find the link and click on it).
Energy level In the past, when I planned on attending a networking event, I usually had a long stressful drive ahead of me, usually with traffic. I had to figure out ahead of time where to park and how to find a place that I have never been to, sometimes in the dark, sometimes feeling not so comfortable in my formal clothes. When I finally would get to the events, I have already used up about 50% of my energy. Nevertheless, I would put a smile on my face, stand tall, and enter a room full of strangers. All this is avoided in the new networking. Joining the online meeting, everyone including myself was dressed casually and seemed comfortable in their own clothes, and since it took no time to get to the meeting, everyone’s energy levels were high and all seemed at ease, and yet excited and ready to connect and communicate.
New connections Entering a room full of strangers can be intimidating. Naturally, if we spot someone we recognize in the crowd, we would probably approach that person first. Research shows that people spend most of their time in networking events, talking to people they already know, while what they really need are new connections.
Approaching a stranger, introducing myself, giving my short pitch, listening attentively, and hopefully engaging in a meaningful conversation takes time and energy. In one event, I can probably do all this about four times, which means that at the end of the meeting, I would have 4 new potential connections. Not bad!
On the other hand, the virtual happy hour I attended was a pilot meeting, so a whole hour was spent on introductions. I couldn’t choose who to talk to. I heard experiences and gathered information from 20 other professionals, and when it was my turn to introduce myself, all attendees heard what was important for me to say. The result was that all participants got acquainted with each other.
At the end of the meeting, we all used the chat to share our contact information and LinkedIn profiles, and other tips and suggestions. I got 20 new potential connections, which was five times better than an in-person event.
Looking forward to the next meeting The best of all the mentioned advantages is that I actually enjoyed the meeting and I was looking forward to the next one. Here is what I intend to do at the next meeting that will help me make the most of the new networking: Before the meeting: work even harder on perfecting my pitch, and practice saying it to the camera. I might only get one chance to say it and maybe in front of many people. I will make sure it includes my goals, so participants will be able to help me achieve them. After the meeting: Building and maintaining relationships with new connections is challenging to begin with. The challenge is even greater when my new connection is someone that I never met in person and didn’t even have a one on one conversation with. My solution is yet to be implemented so it is solely a suggestion and not based on experience. My new connections will be added to the LinkedIn pool of connections. To make those connections work for me, I need to be active on LinkedIn. I need to make sure my profile includes my interests, my goals and I need to share and post about what I care about and what I want more in my life. The more active I am, the more my new connections will be reminded repeatedly of what I like, what interests me, what I do, and what I want to do. They, on their own, can make connections that will benefit me.
Yes to both in-person and online meetings We are social creatures and we thrive on in-person meetings and should have as many as possible. Still, work and project-related online meetings are such a great addition to our lives and I believe they open so many more opportunities for us, and make networking easier and even enjoyable!
Don’t miss the next opportunity! I encourage you to look-up organizations that are of interest to you. Many now offer webinars, networking events, meetings that are open to the public that you can participate in, from the comfort of your home. You never know what opportunity might land in your lap(top).
Come see amazing Educational Sessions at our Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) Sat. Feb 8th, 2020!! Early Bird by Feb 1st. Toastmasters International, District 101 (Santa Clara – Santa Cruz – Monterey, California USA).
Don’t forget to get all your club officers trained!! It will help your club get to or maintain Distinguished status. Toastmasters International, District 101 (Santa Clara – Santa Cruz – Monterey, California USA).
Come see amazing Educational Sessions at our Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) Sat. Feb 8th, 2020!! Toastmasters International, District 101 (Santa Clara – Santa Cruz – Monterey, California USA).