Wednesday, December 2, 2015

#IWSG: Use It OR Lose It

Many #writers fear #speaking in front of a crowd. Today, I offer a few tips to make the experience easier.
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Use it, or lose it.
I once played a flute solo in front of a huge crowd in the BSU Pavilion (currently known as the Taco Bell Arena). Now the instrument sits in my closet unused. I haven’t played the flute in decades, and I’ve since forgotten how to even finger the notes. It was a talent I once had, and now I don’t. As the old adage says, “Use it or lose it.”

Margo Kelly - 1986

This is often true for various abilities. If we don’t exercise the skill on a regular basis, we run the risk of losing it. I know that if I want to keep a particular talent, I must make a habit of using it.

For me, public speaking is an ability that I want to keep polished. So I’ve made the conscious decision to practice on a regular basis. That means I’m not only delivering prepared speeches, but I’m also leading efficient meetings and offering verbal evaluations of other people’s speeches. These three processes allow me to use my brain in different ways which then enables me to remain proficient with this skill.

Margo Kelly - 2015

So let’s briefly address these three topics: delivering a prepared speech, leading an efficient meeting, and offering verbal evaluations.

First, prepared speeches help me improve my communication skills because through the process, I need to write the speech, polish it, and memorize it. Now of course memorizing is not always necessary, but it is excellent brain exercise. Some people do Sudoku. Some people do crossword puzzles. I do public speaking. I’ve also figured out that about 600 written words equals a five minute presentation for me. In daily life, I tend to be very long winded. So to prepare something short is a great way for me to practice being concise with my message.

Second, leading an efficient meeting is another way to utilize my abilities – because instead of writing, polishing, and memorizing, conducting a meeting allows me to organize, monitor, and listen. These are all necessary tools not only for a competent speaker but also for a leader in any arena. We must be able to organize an agenda, monitor the usage of time, and listen to what’s being said throughout the entire meeting. Listening is a vital element of being a great speaker. Which brings me right into to the next point.

Offering a verbal evaluation of another person’s speech is a practical way for improving my own aptitude. When I am actively engaged in listening critically to someone else’s presentation, I can observe techniques I want to adopt personally and styles I might want to avoid completely. However, being an effective evaluator involves more than just listening. I must also then compile my thoughts quickly in order to offer verbal feedback in a kind but helpful way.

These three opportunities: delivering a prepared speech, leading an efficient meeting, and offering verbal evaluations provide me with varied ways to practice my public speaking.
In conclusion, as the old adage says, “Use it or lose it.” I don’t play the flute anymore. I don’t remember how to play a simple scale. But that’s not a priority to me at this point in my life. Speaking well is a priority, and I practice regularly at Toastmasters.

Toastmasters is an international organization dedicated to empowering individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. By participating in the variety of roles offered at the meetings, like delivering prepared speeches, leading efficient meetings, and offering verbal evaluations, I am able to exercise my skills and feel comfortable in front of others in many settings.


  1. That sounds like a lot of fun Margo. I used to love public speaker in my former job. I must try to create more opportunities to do that. Something to organise in the new year. Thanks for the reminder. Wishing you lots of fun over the coming weeks.

  2. Nice. See, that's how I feel about all things music. I'm constantly evaluating what I hear and using what I glean to make my art better. Same with writing. And teaching. I don't do public speaking as much as I'd like to, but such is the nature of life, eh? We only have so many hours and we have to pick a focus.

    Loved the tips!

  3. I attended a Toastmasters meeting and realized that getting up in front of them was scarier than getting up in front of a roomful of children. But I chose the most successful group in all of Nashville--they'd won awards! Someone told me I need to find a smaller group that isn't in a corporate meeting room. Maybe one that meets in a restaurant or at a school...that's where you'll find the normal people who are scared like the rest of us!

  4. I have yet to acquire that skill, so I can't lose it yet.

  5. As I was reading this, I was thinking Toastmasters!
    I have an instrument in my closet I barely remember how to play. And five guitars that I play every day.

  6. I agree. Talents do fade when we don't use them often. Sometimes that's okay, though, but in my case, I really need to get back into singing lessons pronto.

  7. A friend of mine was greatly helped by Toastmasters. She went on to win her dream job of becoming a children's librarian. Pretty amazing to watch.