For most of us, speaking in front of two or more people can be uncomfortable, even frightful. For me, it was exceptionally so. When I was 30 years old, I left my native country, Haiti, and needed to learn to speak English. My accent made it hard for me to communicate and this new challenging world of the United States took my voice away and made me silent.
Despite my silence, I was always seeking for any opportunity to grow. I realized that I could not become a better version of myself if I did not overcome that fear of speaking. I knew I had to learn how to properly talk with others.
At my first Toastmasters meeting, I joined Impact 21. The club welcomed me and encouraged me to participate in Table Topic. Impact 21 was the place to be. They coached me and helped me leave my corner. After a few months, the club encouraged me to participate in the humorous speech competition, which was way out of my comfort zone. The challenge was thrilling. I even made it to the District contest!
From the all the advice I received, Vice President of Education Mario Lewis, who understood that my accent was my handicap, gave me a piece that set me free. He told me to publicly acknowledge my accent with in the first sentence of my speech and to choose words that I was comfortable pronouncing. Search for comfortable words actually increased my vocabulary.
Participating in table topics was the most beneficial to me. At the time, I was thinking in French then translating in English. With a 1-2 minutes extemporaneous speech, I had to learn to stop that habit and think in English only. I had to learn to take a deep breath, think about what was asked, take time to enunciate my words, and speak slowly.
My Toastmasters journey is not over. I am still learning. I am still improving myself. And I am still gaining more confidence. The tremendous support of my speaking family at Impact 21 makes me realize that once I am ready, I can speak in front of the world.