Ed Hearn is an amazing speaker

30Oct09

Sometime in August, I joined one of the Springfield chapters of Toastmasters International. Toastmasters is an organization devoted to the practice of effective public speaking. Being able to converse clearly and confidently is essential for any journalist, so I figured routinely speaking before a group would be beneficial.

“Beneficial” may be an understatement. My two months with Toastmasters could be described as life-changing. I’ve delivered exactly one speech in my time with the Noontime Toastmasters group, but I have experienced a confidence boost already. I now feel not only more comfortable, but also more flexible in group settings.

One attribute I’ve come to appreciate in Toastmasters’ meetings is the amount of support members show. A great example of Toastmasters’ support occurred Wednesday night at a demonstration meeting on the University of Illinois, Springfield campus. UIS is gathering members to establish a new Toastmasters chapter, and I have no doubt it’s only a matter of time before enough students are gathered.

The demonstration meeting was organized by the tireless Rachel Hasenyager, a UIS counselor and seemingly omnipresent community Toastmasters member, to showcase what potential members can expect from a Toastmasters meeting.

Usually a Toastmasters meeting hosts members and guests of all backgrounds and skill levels, and Wednesday night’s demo was no different. Rachel brought in Ed Hearn, a Toastmaster who won the organization’s international speaking content, dubbed the “World Series of Public Speaking,” in 2006.

Ed Hearn

Ed Hearn, provided by EdHearn.net

Ed is now a professional orator, which means he delivers motivational speeches all around the world, for thousands of dollars. But Ed is the type of person who would probably speak to people for free, such is his natural effervescence for life and public speaking.

Ed delivered the speech he won the World Series with, which was titled “The Courage to Try.” In it, Ed used historical events and personal experiences to illustrate the importance of persistence. He gave three types of mental barriers people needed to recognize and overcome to achieve their goals:

  1. Inadequacies and Insecurities – We grapple with, and sometimes magnify, our own shortcomings.
  2. The Convenience of Excuses – We try to justify our lack of action or minimize the impact of any potential action.
  3. Fear of Failure – We believe that falling short of our goal is a final and irrevocable result.

These are mental barriers we have all experienced, but Ed’s concise organization and congenial delivery helped drive his points home. For example, on the “fear of failure” portion, Ed discussed how he failed the Illinois State Bar Examination six… SIX!…times. But he accepted failure as “neither fatal nor final,” re-took that exam a seventh time and passed. That takes some persistence.

Our demo meeting had everyone contributing bits of wisdom, from Margaret Walker’s humorous memory about dating to impressions and observations by UIS students. I had the pleasure of delivering my icebreaker, sans notes, in the presence of such an accomplished speaker. Ed told me to go forward with my speaking; it’s undoubtedly encouraging to hear a world champion tell you to keep going, that you’re in the right direction.

Thanks to Ed Hearn and everyone in Toasmasters in Springfield who organized and attended the UIS demo meeting. I think all who attended found the event most informative and inspirational.

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