In communication, it is not just the what and why you are saying things that is important. How you illustrate your point is equally important. Your non verbal communication cues play a big part in projecting your comfort level with the audience. But, beyond that your comfort level in any communication setting is largely determined by your comfort level with the subject in hand and your comfort level with communicating in general. Toastmasters works towards addressing both of these aspects.
Think about the times you have discussed something you are passionate about with a peer. Chances are you are comfortable with the topic you are passionate about and the content aspect of things helps you exude a certain level of comfort. In addition, our peers are often people we are comfortable with. This means that having a conversation with them does not make you feel uncomfortable. So, a passionate conversation with your friend is often effortless and higher on the comfort level.
Now, imagine the time when you procrastinated a school project and had to present a report after some last minute work. Chances are most of us have had an off day and were not able to complete a project by giving it our 100%, for whatever reason. In this case, being on the spot to discuss a topic you are unsure about creates a little bit of discomfort. If you gave a presentation under these circumstances, then I am sure your audience sensed your lack of comfort. The fact that you know you were not able to give the project a 100% further adds to your discomfort during the presentation process as well. In a nutshell, the lack of comfort with the topic in hand and the idea of presenting something you are unsure about gets in the way of your comfort level.
Whether you are engaging in a chit chat at work, in a dining table conversation at home or in small talk with someone at an event, your comfort level with the situation will translate into your comfort level in conversation. In other words, your comfort level to a certain extent is dictated by your comfort in the situation you are in. Additionally, your comfort level in situations where you need to present an idea to your team at work, or convince a family member with something, this requires you to be comfortable with the situation and the topic you are discussing.
Lack of comfort in a situation results in different nervous ticks. Someone might start altering their stance and move back and forth. Others might mix up their words. Someone else might blink too much or too little. Regardless of what you do when you are uncomfortable speaking, chances are this will get in the way of what you are communicating. Like most things in life you can train yourself to be comfortable and increase your overall comfort level during communication. Toastmasters has prepared speeches which allow you to practice your comfort in presentation situations, while the table topic or impromptu session allow you to practice comfort level in conversation situations. How do you want to improve your comfort level?
TM Kriti Panth
Secretary, Professionals Toastmaster Club
Area O2 CGD