Monday, April 14, 2014

Practice more important than formal courses

Last week I gave a week long 'Public Speaking' course to secondary level students in a summer camp. The way I'd conduct the session would be to give a short introduction about the area we were focusing that day - for example: organization, body language or vocal variety - and then spend the rest of the class for practice through various activities. At the end of the five days I don't know if anybody became a better speaker. It might have been the first time few students were ever speaking in front of people. Yet I don't think anyone gained much from the short course. I say so because I know through experience that there are only three rules for becoming a better public speaker and that is "Practice. Practice. Practice."

I didn't become an effective public speaker or a good writer by taking a course or studying techniques. In fact, I don't have any formal training or qualification in these areas. What made me good was years of practice. I started speaking in front of public ever since I was in kindergarten. In fact, I loved it. I started writing somewhere around the same time. It was many years before I realized I was any good at it. So there comes a time when you actually begin to notice that you're actually good at something and you wish to take it to the next level. To do this, I've found a common group that meets regularly and has mentors to guide us as being the best option.

I've grown in manifolds as a public speaker ever since joining the Toastmasters' club. The club doesn't teach me the techniques of public speaking. Rather it is a platform where I can actually go on stage and speak. Every week I meet with a group of people with a common purpose - get better at public speaking. There are evaluators and mentors who help me find out my weak areas. I also get to learn my strong points. Thus, I believe that the best way for anyone to get better at any skill is not just to take a course but carry on regular practice most preferably in a group that meets regularly. However, a course could be the starting point that imparts us the basic techniques to get started. But the skill is learnt only through repeated experience and practice.

So if you want to be a better public speaker, join the Toastmasters' Club. If you want to be a better writer, start a blog. If you want to be a good artist, start making art. And in this process, always make sure that you get feedback and have good mentors to guide you. A course really doesn't change your skill. But a dedicated practice certainly does!

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