Speaking Out for the Voiceless

Many moons ago, when I was a glorified bureaucrat and fledgling Church geek, I spent my Thursday lunch hours with a group of folks who, like myself, were reluctant public speakers.  For about three years, I was a member of a Toastmasters group held in City Hall.

The folks who just experienced my polished presentation on human trafficking at a local parish this morning might be surprised to learn that I used to be very leery of speaking in public.  I wouldn't say that I was exactly afraid of public speaking, it's just that I didn't like to do it. I'd get nervous and anxious and just generally unhappy with the prospect, which of course would impact my actual ability to speak publicly.

About 14 years ago, a friend invited me to join her Toastmasters group.  At first, I was dubious.  Why would I, someone who doesn't like to speak in public, spend my lunch hour learning how to do so?  To humor her, I went to my first meeting and was hooked.  It was great!  Here was a group of other folks like me who had something to say to the world but just weren't comfortable doing so.  In a safe environment, we tried out different roles, gave speeches, worked on extemporaneousness speaking, and gave each other feedback. Each of us developed natural abilities and learned skills in areas that weren't so natural,

These days, in my ministry as a 21st Century Sister and Peace & Justice Educator & Advocate, I draw heavily from my Toastmasters experience.  When I'm putting together a talk or presentation, I think about what I learned.  My PowerPoint becomes my visual aid, simultaneously serving to draw the attention of the audience way from me--when they look directly at me I'm always more nervous!--and provides a cheat sheet of my notes/outline so that I can appear to be speaking off the top of my head.  There are other tricks I learned over the three years of mostly weekly meetings, but that's the main take away and it has proved invaluable.

Which is great, because even though I still don't exactly enjoy public speaking, I love being able to educate and empower folks to work for justice and speak out for the voiceless.  Whether I'm on the human trafficking presentation circuit or talking to a group of high school students about immigration reform, I love the fact that I am able to educate to inform and inspire people to take action.

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