Thursday, March 22, 2012

From Public Speaking to Writing

I joined Toastmasters International back in 2003 and grew a lot as a public speaker. I've joined contests--and won a few of them--, made numerous presentations, conducted seminars, and been sought after as a speech trainer and adviser. So, what is a Toastmaster doing trying to develop himself as a writer?
Looking back in history, the idea that I may make it as a writer actually started early in my years as a Toastmaster. After delivering one of my basic speeches, my evaluator commented that I had the makings of a good storyteller. Of course, the thought of becoming a writer had not occurred to me back then. I was totally focused on developing as a speaker and even thought of becoming a paid speaker by conducting seminars and training others in public speaking. In retrospect, continuing with Toastmasters was the right thing to do for my future as a writer and here's why:
Some of what I've learned in Toastmasters actually apply to writing. The very first thing new Toastmasters learn about public speaking is that your speech must have an opening, a body, and a conclusion. In your first speech, that's all they really tell you. As you progress through your training, you learn techniques on how to create good, attention-getting openings; how to make transitions between points in the body of your speech; and make memorable, motivating, and inspiring conclusions. The same can also apply to writing. In fact, if you think about it, a speech usually starts in written form before it is delivered orally.
Another learning is that you should avoid using jargon. Jargon is a language used by a group or profession. So, doctors have a jargon all their own, as do lawyers. If you're speaking in front of office-mates, you can get away with using your company's jargon. But if you're delivering a speech to a mixed group, use common or simple words. The same advice works for writing.
Staying with words, one of the best advice I've ever received is to try to experiment with using different words from the one you originally thought of using. In one speech, I used the word “audacious” instead of “brave” and made the speech that one little bit better. Be careful, however, of using too many uncommon words else your audience or readers will focus on wondering what the words mean instead of understanding the message or hearing the story.
Speaking styles vary widely. Some people like to speak in an oratorical manner, while others prefer to use a more conversational tone. Both styles have their place. Most writers use the conversational tone but even oratorical writing can be a good read. The Gettysburg Address is an inspiring speech whether you hear it or read it.
So, in terms of writing skills, I'd say Toastmasters gave a lot to me. But skills alone don't make a writer. You have to want-to-be a writer. So, what was it that got me into this thing?
I would have to say that it's the reach. When I'm talking to a roomful of people or an auditorium or function room filled with 200 to 400 people, that's how many people I'm reaching with my words. With writing, it's potentially a lot more, much more if I do it right. Of course, you can reach a lot of people with public speaking too, if you're always on the speaking circuit.
I haven't quite given up on public speaking. Speaking and writing are two different things but they both give me a different kind of lift and they can even complement each other. I've tasted public speaking so I guess, I need to give my writing a chance to grow as well.


  1. I usually prefer both public speaking and writing because I like doing both. I try to reach out to people by making them know the joys of public speaking...

    Sales Speaker

    1. Hi David! I like both as well but I haven't done much writing as I have speaking in public so my concentration right now is writing. I still get to speak sometimes so I haven't really been dormant.