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Davide de Paolis
Davide de Paolis

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Public speaking in times of Covid19

online toastmasters

No. I haven't decided to start a podcast or YouTube channel. This is a Screenshot from last week's Toastmasters meeting. The first one we did online due to the quarantine.
Toastmasters is a non-profit organization distributed in thousands of local clubs where you can practice your public speaking and leadership skills ( and communication in general).

My club in Hamburg is called Powerspeakers and we meet every two weeks. We used to meet every two weeks, but since the Coronavirus (COVID19) reached Germany and Hamburg, there has been like in many othere countries, a ban/stop for all social activities.
We skipped a couple of meetings, but then we decided to give the Online Chats a go.
Honestly, I was very happy to meet all the club members again, and have a laugh, as we always do during our meetings, while we challenge ourselves with public impromptu speaking "games" like the 10 Seconds Question or the Table Topics, but I wasn't sure about the prepared speeches.

How can you improve your speaking in public skills, face your stage fright and improve your body language and audience engagement, if you are sitting in your room, in front ( or better said, safely behind) a screen?

For that day I had - originally - already had a speech planned, but since it was part of the project "Connect with your audience" I did not feel like it was going to work with an online meeting, so for my first online/remote speech I searched all the possible tasks from my Pathways and found a shorter speech of about 3 minutes about "Running a Blog".

I thought it was a great opportunity to speak about my blogging experience on my previous private blogs and most importantly about my first year here on ( and to proudly wear the DEV T-shirt I received as a present for being featured once in Top 7 Posts of the week.)

The speech went quite smoothly, even though it is a bit awkward to be delivering it while sitting, and of course it's not the same as speaking on a stage but it still is a very good training.

In general, I found the online meeting went very good, I really liked the fact that every participant was on mute by default, and had to unmute themself when it was their turn. This allowed avoiding noise and echos, something that still happens in too many online meeting at work, with wives speaking on the phone in the other room, cartoons playing in the background to keep the kids quiet, someone typing on their keyboard, dogs barking, or loud gurgling sounds of people swallowing a glass of water.
Something else I found very interesting, that I did not really get at the beginning was people smiling and waving at the camera. Normally during the meetings, there is a lot of handshaking, smiling and clapping ( basically before and after everyone's turn ), during the meeting, everyone was raising their hands and waving - while on mute -, a bit funny and awkward, until I realized that that is the clapping for deaf and mute people, that is the Applause in the SIGN LANGUAGE!

Even though I really hope that we will all soon be able to meet in person (after all, one of the reasons I joined Toastmasters is to prepare myself to speak at Meetups and Conferences - which have also all been canceled or held remotely ) I believe there are still great opportunities to learn, have fun and improve ourselves - maybe not in regards to stage fright, but in regards to our presence in online meetings.

I think itΒ΄s a good idea if, during the lockdown periods, we would shift some of the topics exactly to pay attention and improve the online/remote way of appearing and behaving, because online meetings, online conferences, remote job interviews ( or even really participating to podcasts or youtube episodes) will become the norm more and more often.

Being confident while speaking to a screen, looking at the camera, positioning the camera at the right angle, using lights properly (avoiding white overexposed face when your room is completely dark as well the silhouette effect when you have a sunny window in the back and you are completely dark), holding the right posture while speaking seated, properly using gestures are all skills still very important and still too underestimated.

So again, despite this situation being far from positive, we can try to make the best out of it and take all the opportunities and challenges it throws at us.

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