Finding your voice

The following first appeared on the Toastmasters International facebook group and posted here with permission of the author Mark Snow.

Mark Snow 

“Last Tuesday, I was at a Toastmasters meeting, when a young man got up to deliver his very first speech.

He was perhaps the most anxious person I’ve ever seen – a pile of shredded paper lay on his desk, his eyes looked down the entire time, and his feet tapped uncontrollably on the ground as he waited for the moment when his name would be called.

Then it was his turn. He was too nervous to stand, so the club gave him a chair to sit in while he talked. The club President sat in a chair beside him for moral support, and the timing lights were switched off. We could see the notes trembling in his hands. And then he began.

The young man had a severe stutter, and every sentence was doggedly forced out as if his very life depended on it. All eyes were riveted upon him, and nobody in the room made a sound. One person got up to close the door so we could all hear him better. And for over ten minutes, he talked.

He talked about silence, of a childhood where he was not allowed to speak his mind, of a world ruled by walls of constant anxiety. He talked about the cracks that appeared in high school, the light seeping through as slowly but surely he came out of his shell.

Then he spoke of the almost fatal head injury that stole his voice away again, along with his movement, and you could hear thirty hearts break throughout the room. He spoke of the pain of his returning silence, and the years of therapy taken to regain his body and his speech, however limited.

When he ended with the new friends he had made, and the cracks that had formed in his walls again, the room erupted in a standing ovation. On and on it went, tears streaming down smiling faces, as those assembled acknowledged the courageous event they’d just witnessed.

The speaker eventually ran from the room to be sick from the sheer anxiety and exhaustion of what he’d just done, followed by the President and some other members to check that he was okay. Many hugs and words of congratulations were shared that evening.”

If you have a story about your first Toastmasters meeting please let us know. Maybe it was the first time you spoke in public? It doesn’t have to be as emotional as the story above but if you’d like to share it either add it to the comments below or send it to us via the contact form.

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