No one likes to make mistakes. But they happen and they are often accompanied with pain and remorse. When they happen in front of an audience they can be truly devastating. Many people are deathly afraid of public speaking because of a previous failure. “They laughed at me” or “I made a fool of myself” are words that play over and over in their minds.
Is there a safe place to practice “public speaking” and to try out new ideas that may ultimately fail? I would say an overwhelming yes. Toastmasters provides a place to practice speaking and leading. The club audiences are always supportive and will give you lots of constructive feedback. I have had some of my greatest failures in Toastmasters. I have lost my place in a speech, left out whole portions of an important meeting, and even forgotten a very important person’s name.
In each case I was devastated and resolved to “never do it again.” But the club members would always come back with words of encouragement and helped me learn from failure. These failures have been important milestones for me, as they are the greatest teachers there are. As John Maxwell puts it “the difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.”
Failure can also come in a different form. That of being “wrong.” Have you ever expressed an idea or written an article on a subject only to be proven wrong. This can lead to the “safety of silence,” which can completely stifle creativity.
Steve Pavlina has an article on his blog this morning entitled “You have the right to be wrong.” Steve states..
What’s so terrible about being wrong? If you’re never wrong, to me that indicates you aren’t growing. I hope that five years from now, I’ll look back on some of my blog posts from this year and disagree with myself. Otherwise it would mean that either I haven’t grown or that I was too timid in expressing myself.
Don’t be afraid to take stabs at the edges of your certainty. That’s one of the best ways to learn. Let others react to your ideas. Sometimes they’ll help provide new facts that can allow you to refine your ideas. Other times they’ll merely react emotionally which can help you become more resilient in weathering other people’s emotions. Don’t be afraid to put out your ideas in a conversation, a speech, an article, a blog entry, a forum post — any communication where you can get feedback from others.
Toastmasters is a great place to try new things and express new ideas. You can be “wrong” and make mistakes with a Toastmasters audience and still receive a timely and informative evaluation. If you have never been to a Toastmasters meeting I would encourage you to find a club near you and visit. I think you’ll find, like I have, a friendly and supportive audience to help you take your speaking skills to the next level.