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Transcript: How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking (EP43)


Intro (with music): Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. This is a podcast where we talk all things, culture, leadership and teamwork across business and sport.

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Brendan: Hello, everybody. I'm Brendan Rogers, the host of The Culture of Things podcast, and this is episode 43. Today, I'm talking with Kate Purcell. Kate grew up a shy, introverted, and perfectionist type kid, so public speaking wasn’t her forte. She gets so nervous, feeling sick, and shaking whenever she has to give a school speech, and then the same happens in job interviews as she gets older. 

When Kate joined the adult world, she was always an excellent worker and rose up the management ranks. The still shy, introverted, perfectionist that she was, hated every moment of it. Eventually, she heard an opinion that you don't have to rise the management ladder. You can just enjoy your job and that gave her a new perspective. No more being pushed into management.

Her next challenge was to improve her overall confidence in talking to people. She joined a local Toastmasters Club to improve her public speaking. Kate still shakes and she can’t speak without her notes, but she doesn't feel quite as sick anymore. 

Despite all of this, she decided to run for president. It was completely her decision. No one pushed her into it, so she says. She thought she was ready to take on this next step as the club has a great executive committee behind it. The perfectionist in Kate is loving it. Kate doesn't think she's doing anything special. She says she's just doing what feels right and this is what I love about Kate.

The focus of our conversation today is Kate’s public speaking journey from before her first Toastmasters meeting to taking on the role as president. Kate, welcome to The Culture of Things podcast.

Kate: Thank you, Brendan. I'm very nervous to be here.

Brendan: I was going to say how are you feeling about this situation?

Kate: Not quite sick to my stomach, but I am shaking.

Brendan: The great thing is you had about 12 months experience at Toastmasters. You're a lot better than what you would have been 12 months ago, right?

Kate: Absolutely. There is no way I would have agreed to this 12 months ago, for sure.

Brendan: I'm so happy you did agree to it because for me, I've had the privilege of watching your journey through Toastmasters—that's where we met—and now to becoming the president. That’s why I was so excited to bring this journey to life in an episode like this. 

What I'd like you to do first of all is what do you do outside of Toastmasters? Do anything outside of Toastmasters?

Kate: Not a lot. Just so you know, I work full time. Surprisingly, probably to some people, I am actually a team leader in health administration. I focus on auditing and training new staff. Now I will preface, when I'm training new staff, it is much more one-on-one, not standing in front of the classroom training because I couldn't do that. No way could I stand in front like that. One-on-one is okay when I know everything that I need to teach. I'm confident in what I do.

Brendan: I want to go back first of all to—let's set the scene a bit—Kate as a child or as a teenager, wherever you want to go in this. Public speaking is scary for lots of people. How did it impact you? What sorts of feelings were brought up when you had to speak to people, speaking environments that were uncomfortable for you?

Kate: Again, it was just always unenjoyable. I didn't always stop myself. I was school captain in primary school. I did always try to work through it but only if I ever wanted to. If there was an easy way out, I often said no. I guess being shy, introverted as well. 

We used to go to Rugby all the time, I still do. You'll go and see X player or a famous person, and you're like, I’ll just wave from afar, and I met them, not really. I would never go up and say hi like everyone else does. I was the one who is more likely to (as I say) hide behind my parents’ skirts, trousers, whatever to just stay behind. But I did try.

It was a running joke, and even now when I was telling my parents that I joined Toastmasters a little while ago, they’re like, well your knee is shaking, because that was always my thing. I thought for sure everyone knew I was shaking and I was about to collapse and all that kind of stuff. 

I was also constantly told, no, we didn't see it. It’s not as obvious as you think it is. I have recognized that I can put on a better show than I feel, but I still know the show is not at all perfect. Not at all.

Brendan: I was talking to a chap today, actually. I didn't know what Toastmasters was. Do you want to just give people a bit of a perspective on what is Toastmasters?

Kate: I had a quick look-up because I like to know what I'm talking about. Toastmasters itself was started in 1924 in America, but it's a worldwide organisation now. The main premise is to help with public speaking, official meeting-type roles and the like. A fairly typical meeting—they are called meetings—is you have a chairman, you have someone taking minutes, you have timers, all sorts of different roles for people to participate in that helps with running meetings effectively and gives you opportunities to speak in front of a group.

There are short speeches which are generally 2–3 minutes long, prepared speeches. You've got a topic of some description that you go and write a speech on, practice, rehearse, and recite in front of the group. There's also impromptu speeches which, depending on what's going on, maybe between 1–2 minutes, and it's just a random question. You’ve got no idea what's coming and you just have to stand up and speak, and stop waffling on for as long as you can. There are also chances for people to evaluate how you speak so that you can obviously learn and grow.

There's also a more formal education side of it called pathways. Toastmasters have put together a whole program to help teach you different skills of writing speeches, how to deliver speeches, how to prepare them, how to evaluate them and things like that. The main aim is to be able to stand up and practice talking in front of people in what is hopefully a really supportive environment, which is what my club, Brisbane Water Breakfast Club, does.

Brendan: I guess in understanding that—I mean Toastmasters, so I have some understanding—is that today's a bit of a prepared speech scenario. We've had a chat and we've prepared some of this for today, but also the impromptu speaking side of things. Does that sum it up all right?

Kate: Absolutely. I will definitely evaluate myself afterwards. I am challenging myself because at the moment I am no way the perfect speaker. Whenever I do my speeches, I still have my whole speech typed out, and I'm not good at looking away from my speech. Today, I've just got a couple of notes. It's not a speech. I'm trying to challenge myself in that department to keep working on this public speaking idea.

Brendan: Well done. I think that's the thing that for me is really impressive, that you're always pushing yourself. You're always trying to go that next step. You're not trying to run a marathon before you can walk, but you're just moving and hitting little steps, and that's fantastic.

Kate: I know all the feedback I get is trying not to use notes. I know that, I recognise that, but I'm not there yet. I will be and I'll work on it, but I know my limitations. I know what I'm trying to improve on and, as you said, just step-by-step in my time.

Brendan: Going back to your younger years before Toastmasters, was there anything that this fear of speaking and presenting that had stopped you doing anything that you really wanted to do?

Kate: I don't know that it stopped me majorly. It's probably more just those little things. If I had to do something, I always do it. School speeches, there was no getting out of them. I would try and be first so I could just get it done, it's over. Otherwise, I'm sitting there, my stomach's in knots, and all that kind of stuff, and it just gets worse and worse. 

Thinking about this question, it was probably more just, as I said, not enjoying things. Even as a kid, I do remember something about Go-Karting one day and I'd be so nervous. I know it's not public speaking, but just that shy, introvert being public, I don't want to make a fool of myself is probably the root of it. You're like, I'm not sure what. I want to do it, but I'll probably look dumb. I don't know how to do it, so maybe I won't. 

There would have been a whole heap of little things like that. Not necessarily major, but I probably just stopped myself from doing some of those exciting things, that would have been fun, would have been fine. In Go-Karting, everyone crashes and doesn't know what they're doing. Who knows how to drive a car that easily? I would either take a hell of a lot of convincing to do it or I just go, no, I don't want to. It’s cool, I don’t want to, while desperately probably wanting to. It was more of those little things that you just didn't enjoy or knowing I had to do something and then be sick all day and wouldn’t enjoy my day. But that utter relief afterwards when I was finished was awesome.

Brendan: Self-satisfying?

Kate: Yes. Once I calm down, obviously.

Brendan: Let's go to the trigger point for you. There may be lots of options you could have taken up, but in taking up a journey in Toastmasters, what was that trigger for you that said this is something that I really need to do, want to do, have to do?

Kate: I heard about Toastmasters in the past. My husband had done it through work for a few months from memory. I knew of it, and then a little bit later a friend went to one. To be fair, she only made it to the one and hasn't quite made it back yet. That minute, it was sitting in the back of my mind. I knew it was there. At some stage, I was just like, I'm just going to look into a little bit more.

I was looking at what clubs are on the central coast, when their availability was and stuff like that. I did come across Brisbane Water Breakfast Toastmasters Club, mainly because they were Saturday morning, so it’s convenient. I didn't think I could do the after-work night time stuff, all good. 

I think I left that tab open on my computer for months with that idea. I'm coming back to it. It's there. I haven't said no, but I haven't said yes. Then I think there were just a couple of things in life that just rocked my confidence a little bit. I just went, I need to work on my confidence in life, not just public speaking, but that was a big part of it.

Finally, I was talking to my husband a bit more about it and just reminded me what this is. The first time he spoke about it, I'm like that's just too hard. But this time, I'm a little bit more receptive. I did actually ask him if he could come with me. I’m like, you don't have to, but if you could, that would be awesome. He said yes, but the first time I decided to go, he couldn't go. I had to do it then. If I don't go, it's going to sit there for months again. I'm just never going to go. I'd already had the date in my mind. I'm going to go but I told no one at Toastmasters which I don’t actually recommend.

It’s much easier when people know you're coming. They can be ready for you and look out for you. That way, I could change my mind at any moment. The meeting was starting at 8:30. I was in the car park at 8:00 going I can still turn around and go home. I can still go home. I'm messaging my husband going, I'm here. He's like, go on. It was a long decision, but once I've decided as I said I had to, otherwise I probably would’ve just turned around and not come back. I wouldn't be where I am today.

Brendan: I'm interested in exploring that had to, what was that had to for you?

Kate: Just the fact that I’d put it off for so long. It was just sitting there, I'm like, maybe, kind of, sort of I want to. It sounds really hard and scary. It's easy to not do it. There was no real reason that I had to. It’s not like I had some big presentation coming up and I know that's sometimes why people start a speech at a wedding or something. There was no future idea that this had to be done, but I'd made the decision myself just within myself that this can only be good for me. It'll be hard but it'll be good, and things can't be any worse. I already hate public speaking and stuff like that, but surely if I practice, things will get a little bit easier.

It was just if I didn't go to that first day, I probably wouldn't have tried again. Whether it be months or years or never, I would close the tab on my computer and go, no, let's put that aside for longer, and who knows when I would have tried again. It was too easy to put off so I had to guard once I decided. It was probably for the best that my husband wasn’t there because then it was all really me. He wasn't the one dragging me along or anything, even though I was the one asking him. It meant it was my decision. It was me doing it. It was all me and I felt very proud of myself after that first meeting.

Brenda: Well done. I have to say I was so hoping you were going to say, Brendan, I just couldn't wait to come on your podcast, so I just had to go to Toastmasters to prepare.

Kate: Well again, if I hadn't have gone, we wouldn't be here, and I wouldn't be having my first podcast.

Brendan: Absolutely. It's amazing these moments, these small decisions that we make and where they can lead us to, isn’t it?

Kate: Absolutely. I just feel it's all part of the challenge I'm trying to give myself these days.

Brendan: How important was it for you in that early stages of preparing to come to Toastmasters, to have someone like Jeremy, your husband as that support person.

Kate: It's great. He’s very supportive as a great husband is. He’s also very annoying because he's a much better speaker than I am, and can speak on the fly much more easily than I can. It’s supposed to be a blessing and a curse that he still comes to meetings with me. He cheers me on at every stage, but somewhat surprisingly maybe I never practiced in front of him. It's still a bit weird to practice speeches and stuff in front of people and get feedback, but it's also just that sense of he's coming to the meetings, too. I don't want him to have to hear a speech he's heard 50 times. I pretend I practice 50 times, and get to the meeting and then have glazed eyes as I'm trying to speak in front of people as well.

I was so glad that he agreed that first time because, as I said, he's been through Toastmasters. He had done a lot of the work already. While everyone, no matter how well you speak, can always improve, he had no reason to go back to Toastmasters. He didn't have to and, as I said, he can speak reasonably confidently in any situation. But having his support, especially just those times where we sit next to each other, I'm shaking, clammy and all that stuff before a speech, and he's just like, calm down, you're all right, and then afterwards I’m like, woohoo, and he's like yeah, go you.

Brendan: Let's go back. You spoke a little bit before around sitting in the car in that moment of should-I-shouldn’t-I stuff. You could have very easily gone shopping because you were sitting at Erina Fair where we used to meet back then. What were some of those emotions going through you at that time?

Kate: I felt very Cameron from Ferris Bueller—I'll go, I'll go—and I was telling myself, I’ll go, I’ll go. If anyone's been to Erina Fair, we used to meet just near the library. I walked around and there were these huge glass windows. We’re sitting in this meeting room and I felt like everyone in Erina Fair was looking at us because you can just look in as you walk past. You obviously can't hear anything, but everyone can see everything. I was like, what have I done? This is really not cool. I do put out there for anyone joining Toastmasters, that first meeting you go to, you will generally have to speak which I wasn't ready for.

I thought I'd ease into this, but I didn't quite. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't quite as easy as I thought. Everyone was lovely when I walked in. Surprised, obviously. As I said, I didn't tell anyone I was coming. Everyone was lovely and they sat me down next to someone who could explain what was going on as the meeting progressed. It did feel supportive straight away. But that first meeting, I remember I had to speak three times. I'm like, what is this? This is not cool.

Granted the three times where I think I had to introduce myself and they have an introduction question. This particular time was what's your favourite quote? I didn't think of any words that had ever been spoken in the history of the English language at that stage. I could not think of anything, but finally my beloved Star Wars came back to me. I remember the Star Wars quote then at the end they asked me what I thought. I'm like, I've got to make something up to the strangers. It was great, awesome, thank you, as I'm dying just a little bit inside.

Then somewhere in the middle, there was the impromptu speech, the random question. They'd asked me, do you want to have a go. I'm too scared and polite to say no. Sure, what are we talking about? I don't remember what that question was, but I had to do technically three impromptu, very short—granted—speeches but unexpected. It was hard, definitely hard, but when I left it was awesome. I felt so good and I'm messaging Jeremy going, I did it. I've done it and he's like go you and stuff like that. Straight away, I recognise the benefit. It wasn't easy, but I was very proud of myself afterwards.

Brendan: I do apologise now. I had no idea we were so hard on you that you had to speak three times. We don't normally do that to people, but well-done. I definitely support what Jeremy says. What are those benefits are you seeing in yourself from day one to now?

Kate: One of the easiest ones is physically I'm not sick to my stomach anymore. I'm talking about that Saturday morning, you wake up, and do I eat breakfast or do I not eat breakfast? What’s going to settle my stomach best? If I'm not feeling well, I often have frogs or muesli bars, just something to nibble on and I would always have them. To be fair, I still have them in my Toastmasters bag just in case. Just something to try and settle or something for my stomach. But I'm still really nervous. As I said today, I am nervous. I'm a bit shaky and clammy, but I'm not sick to my stomach.

Even things that work with my training and auditing, I give updates to people. I give feedback to people, lots of feedback because it's just lots to learn. Even one-on-one feedback wasn't always easy to do. It still depends on who the person is and what your relationship is, but everything's just that little bit easier. If I've got just this really small demonstration and I'm talking a minute to show a group of people just a reminder we do something with this formal something new. I would still work myself up to do that and you're well aware, I can't hold paper very well. I shake because I tried to hide everything but as soon as I hold paper, I feel everyone knows what's going on.

I'd still have to work myself up to just do a really brief demonstration in front of people, but now it's all not so bad. It's not at all perfect, I'm not there yet, and we have some great speakers in our club who I aspire to be, although, just quietly some of them say they still get really nervous as well and I don't understand how that happens; they're awesome. It's just all that little bit better, just that overall confidence in life. I can feel myself getting more confidence just little bit by little bit.

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You mentioned the work scenario and used an example there. Have you noticed any changes in how either your team sees you, how they engage with your communication, or anybody in the work environment that, as you've progressed on this journey and developed more of your speaking skills, you felt the people have taken you in a different way compared to before Toastmasters?

Kate: I must admit I'm not completely sure because it seems that I've been able to hide things very well for a very long time. Again as long as I'm not holding paper, I seem to look confident and sound confident. In the introduction, we're talking about how I rose the management ladder and things like that. I'm always an excellent worker. I know that about myself, the perfectionist in me as well. I want to do good at what I do. Because of that, automatically you must want to be management or whatever the next step is.

I did that, just being the diligent worker and everyone thought I was good at managing and the like, but no one seems to see how much goes on in my head when it comes to managing people. They all think you're cool, calm, collected, and confident. I'm like, you do not know what's going on in my head to put this front on. I recognised in myself I am a team leader at the moment and I love it, but it's that behind the scenes stuff. It's the training, it's the auditing. It's not the let's sit and run the whole department or anything like that.

People want me to go for higher jobs. It’s quite a while, but I've learnt to say no. I can say no, but the fact that people keep asking makes me think maybe I'm just getting more confident. I'm not sure but no one seems to really see how hard it is to be that in front person, manager, leader. I must say I'm not sure people have seen a change or at the very least, it might not be to my benefit because they might want me to keep going for higher positions.

Brendan: With all this internalisation going on, what therefore have you seen in yourself and that change over these 12 months, like how are you feeling or how you're approaching things? What's become a little bit more comfortable for you?

Kate: It's the just do it, just give it a go, just say yes to some degree, depending on what you're saying yes to. It’s that whole knowing I have to give a short demo or I have to speak to someone, I'll try not to put it off if I don't have to, obviously. If it has to wait until later in the day, that's fine, but it's like, okay, it's that time, just do it. Don’t think about it as, don’t go, I don't want to. It is more of that just do it. It's not quite I’ll go. It's just do it.

That kind of stuff is just getting a little bit easier. It's just that mindset of giving it a go. Don’t wait, don’t hold on to it if I can try and get it out of the way straight away, let's do it, instead of dwelling on it for ages and thinking about it for longer and then going, no, I maybe I'll just do it tomorrow, which is exactly what I could have done that first time at Toastmasters. No, I'll just wait till next time or not go at all. Now it's just okay, let's just do it. It's fine, let's do it.

Brendan: Off the back of that, what is it about this journey again that you're loving the most?

Kate: It is just knowing in myself I do have more confidence. I am getting better. Every speech I do, every moment at work, every step is just that little bit better. Therefore, it’s affecting the whole of life. I can't necessarily pinpoint big, huge, major milestones, but it's just every little thing. It's just a little bit easier, and everything's getting that little bit better. Trying to not think of the thoughts that I don't want to do this because I'm going to make a fool of myself. I probably have made a fool of myself sometimes at Toastmasters now and that’s okay, or I'm not as bad as I think I am and that’s okay. People seem to think I'm doing okay, so that's good. It’s just little bits of confidence adding up every time I speak, particularly at Toastmasters but just in life.

Brendan: Let's move on to el Presidente role that you've taken on for Brisbane Water Breakfast Toastmasters Club. You talked about stewing before over things. How long did you stew over whether you put your hand in the ring for this el president role?

Kate: I did stew for a little bit, I did think about it. As you can imagine, in most community clubs it can be hard work getting your executive team together. People like to participate but don't always volunteer for higher roles. I just had that vague, I'm doing okay, but this would be a huge challenge. That's part of what I'm working on with the confidence that I'm just going to challenge myself more.

I was just thinking about it and it might have only been a month or so. I've  sent an email out saying, can we get some information on what all the roles involved just so I could try and work out what I was mainly getting myself into. I think it was only about a week before we had to decide. I was sitting there with Jeremy going, I think I'm going to give it a go. We still have a really great executive committee. The president actually felt like a behind the scenes role. It didn't really feel like an in-front role. Some people may not believe that, but that's what my thoughts were.

Unfortunately, the day before or something I was about to send an email going, I’ll put my hand up for it, we got another email saying we really need someone to put my hand up. I'm like, I don't want to respond to that email, this is my decision. You’re not forcing me to do it, but I still went ahead with it. Unsurprisingly, it was a unanimous vote. Then I went, oh crap, what have I done? Ultimately, it really just felt like another challenge. I was and am trying to work on myself on that, so let's do it.

If I could have been in shambles, there's no way I would have done it. There’s no way on earth, but we've got a good club. It's well-established, good members. I just felt I would have a lot of support giving a go.

Brendan: I've got to ask this as well because there's not just a president role on the committee, there's a number of roles. What was it that you could have chosen a number of roles to put your hand into. Why take on the top job?

Kate: Again, in my own twisted logic, I thought it would be an easier role. It has been okay, but our roles are, vice-president of education and they have to do the agendas every week and stuff like that. That sounds like a lot of work. Vice-president for relations, I don’t want to talk to people still, so that's not the role for me. Treasurer, has to ask for money every week, that's still a lot more talking than I really, really want to do. A sergeant-at-arms, I've been forced into that one already. I had taken over from someone, I didn't know what that was and they were like, do you want to do it? I'm like, okay. Then I was like, oh crap, all right. Then secretary. I must say, secretary was probably the other one I was thinking of. It didn't seem quite so front-facing. I don't expect everyone to understand that logic, but to me it made some sense.

Brendan: What do you enjoy about the role? Just to touch on what you said earlier I think even in the intro that you're not seeking out any leadership. You've got a team leader role so you are leading a team, but you feel like you're being pushed into those things previously because you were good at your job. Unfortunately, that happens a lot in workplaces. What was it that changed in your own head that said all right, now I'm feeling a bit more comfortable to take on some sort of leadership role in a volunteer organisation?

Kate: I think it was just that I had ideas for improvement. Again, that sort of perfectionist, I want to be good at what I do. I want to know what I'm doing. I'm much more comfortable having processes in place. Again, part of work is training yourself. I'm the one who writes down everything so that anyone can follow them, and I love putting processes together. 

When I first started Toastmasters, I just felt like there was a lot of almost assumed knowledge. I just didn't have everything quite broken down enough for me. When you knew you don't know what you don’t know—you don't know what questions to ask and you're already nervous about being there—you just sort of follow along and hope to somehow glean what information you need, and things like that.

My mission so far in my six months or so as president, has been trying to consolidate all that information. There's a lot of information out there but trying to put it all so it's easily accessible and can easily direct people to, here’s what this role does. If you're doing a speech, this is what you need to do. There's a lot of acronyms that everyone just spouts off and I'm like, what are we talking about here? I don't know what this means. 

Coming in as the new person, I saw a lot of areas of improvement for at least those new people–type of things. It never hurts for the more established people to sort of take a step back and be reminded of some things that we easily forget, or have dropped off, or something like that.

My personal mission has been putting those sorts of things together and putting descriptions of roles together. Here’s the outlines of meetings. This is what you need to do. Again, acronyms. All those definition-type stuff, almost like starter packs for new staff, new Toastmasters, new members. I just felt I had something to contribute. If you dare say as president, I can almost say it's going to happen. Pretend I'm a dictatorship and go, this is what we're going to do until Brendan gently guides me in another direction. Okay, fine. That does sound good.

Brendan: Kate, to be fair, I'm not sure you have the dictator personality.

Kate: Again, maybe in my head.

Brendan: Maybe. What is it about this leadership role as president of a Toastmasters club on the central coast? How has that taught you more about leadership roles? Even relating that back to maybe your own role as the team leader, how has this helped that journey for you?

Kate: It's just more knowledge really. It's the idea that there's always more to learn. There's always people around you who you can learn from but also remembering the new people need to have everything spelled out, and we need to go right back to basics. It's trying to find that balance whenever you are leading anyone. It's working on opinions and the like. 

Being president, in particular, the decisions come down to you ultimately. You do the consultative stuff, what does everyone think, but then everyone waits for you to go, yeah, nay, maybe, no, do this. Whereas depending where you are at work, you don’t make too many decisions really. You’re always going up the ladder to ask someone else is this okay?

Just striking that balance between when I think everyone's had their input, but then this is what I think. Do I do that whole, is everyone okay with this, or is it just, this is what I think? Let’s do it. especially those times where there's maybe no wrong answer, it's just which way are we going to go and work on myself to go okay, let's do this, and hoping that there's no backlash.

Brendan: Have you thought about in this role these various tasks? There are also various things you're doing about bringing a team together. Have you thought about what you think is your number one priority in this role as president, and working or leading a group of people?

Kate: At this stage, I'm going back to basics. Setting things up so everyone can understand exactly where we are, what to do, what's expected of you. We're all running off the same ideas. I must've thought about if I was to be president again, I'm not 100% sure at this stage what would be my purpose as such—my personal purpose—because if I can get all this introductory stuff, policy processes, that kind of stuff done, then I will feel fulfilled in this particular role. I'd need to think up another idea, passion, something to do with the group of why I would want to be president again.

I'm trying to get the foundations right at the moment so that anyone can step in again at any time and know exactly what's going on. I felt there was not enough resources, references. Again, in a community club, everyone's got a little bit of information on their computer. You've got a little bit here. Someone else has here. I think I have something about that. I'm trying to consolidate all that information so it's accessible to everyone who needs it at any time. 

Me, knowing myself as well, when you don't know what you don't know, you don't know what to ask. I'm more likely to go and look for stuff or try and find something before I work up the courage to ask the dumb question. There's no stupid questions. I know that, but in my head, there's plenty of stupid questions. I'm trying to help organise that side of things so that no one feels lost. They can find the information they want and then work up the courage for other speaking instead of maybe the dumb questions.

Brendan: What are you really loving most about the role so far?

Kate: I'm liking the challenge for myself. I'm enjoying Toastmasters just as a member, making myself speak every week. Sometimes it's scripted, sometimes it's impromptu, and trying to do a bit of both. Eventually, I'm going to try and work on no notes; we'll see how it goes. Maybe after my president role is finished. But even just the challenge of being president, I've stretched myself. 

There are other meetings to go to. Not many, thankfully, and being on Zoom has been super easy to go to them. But there are other meetings. There are some online training that you can attend. I've even pushed myself to attend other local Toastmasters clubs to just see how they go and things like that. Just that challenge of giving it my all. 

Again, it's that I want to be good at my job. Hence, I don't think I'm doing anything different. This is just what I feel I should be doing to be the best president I can be, even with that challenge. Referring back to one of your questions about what you have seen in yourself sort of thing, I did an impromptu speech in one of the clubs I visited. I got evaluated. I got an absolutely scathing review evaluation.

Now, as a future member, I promise not all evaluations are scathing, and I also hope that none of them are. They're normally very good and positive. As current Toastmasters members, I implore you not to give scathing reviews. But if I had gotten a review like that when I first started Toastmasters, I would never have returned. Absolutely not, I know that. 

Even just the fact that I was president doesn't mean I know what I'm doing at all, especially when it comes to just the regular side of public speaking. I was hurt by it but not crushed. I know that's a good thing. To be fair, some of the criticism I understood. Some I didn't, but some I understood. But it was still very scathing. Again, that challenge. 

I actually—not in person—gave feedback a couple days later when I calmed down a little bit, just to say that I didn't think that was right, especially as a guest speaker. This is all stuff I'm not sure I would have done two years ago. It's all stuff I've learnt as being part of Toastmasters and just that incremental confidence to do this. Being president made me feel like I had to step up that little bit and speak up for new people, and possible new guests, possible new members. To try and pave the way, to make it easier for them to join Toastmasters, and hopefully gain some more confidence themselves.

Brendan: Kate, you have so many great attributes as a leader. I think the two that really stand out for me is that level of humility and the vulnerability that comes with having a level of humility like that. Where does that come from?

Kate: The vulnerability is probably just it's sometimes easier to make fun of yourself. The number of times I've managed to work my shaking into speeches and stuff like that, it's my story. I just want to show people I'm trying to challenge myself, but I want to show people that it's not easy. I don't even know if it's quite that. It's hard, but it's worth it. You keep trying. Maybe that's more what it is. I am in no way a perfect speaker, but I'm trying. I'm still nowhere near there yet, but I keep getting such supportive feedback from the club that I keep having to go.

When it comes to humility, as I keep saying, I'm getting great feedback from being president. Even at work, I get awesome feedback. I know I'm a really good worker, and I want to be. I also just think I'm doing what I should be doing, trying to be the best I can, and doing what I can to contribute. I don't feel I'm going above and beyond. I'm just being me who wants to be good and help where I can.

Brendan: In this journey of being the best that you can be—you shared a lot of that today—if you were to give somebody just a piece of advice that can help them, whether it's Toastmasters or just any opportunity to become more self confident in public speaking—you chose Toastmasters, you've been on this journey, and you're continuing on this journey—what would that advice be to help people to keep bettering themselves?

Kate: I almost hate to say it, but you just have to try. You just have to give it a go. It's much easier said than done, but if you give it a shot, and you're in the right supportive environment, you can't really fail. Except maybe in your own head. It does get better every time, particularly with Toastmasters. There are so many groups all around the world, and I do implore if you do want to try Toastmasters, if you don’t like your first group for whatever reason—not supportive, too formal, not formal enough—there are plenty more to try. I admit I'm not sure I would have taken my own advice initially, but I do hope people take my advice, and just give it a shot. It’s okay to find it hard, it's okay to not be perfect, and it's okay to work at your speed.

As I said, I'm still very much a speech reader. I'm not a speech giver yet, but I know I need to work on that, and I will. I'm getting there. Even I'm still impressed with myself, I still get up to speak. That's always been that first challenge. While I'm not sick to my stomach now, I still get to the meeting and go, I've got this. I stand up and go oh crap, I don't have this anymore.

I do still struggle, but it's an amazing feeling afterwards when I sit back down. And it does help. I'm just thinking about all aspects of life. Even just talking to strangers, it's a little bit easier when you've been practicing speaking. I don't expect every shy, introverted, scared public speaker to take my advice, but I hope they do because it will make a difference.

Brendan: Kate, we're on the home stretch. You can start to relax just a little bit.

Kate: Thank you.

Brendan: Tell us how we can get a hold of you if people want to make contact.

Kate: The best way is probably just through the Brisbane Water Breakfast Toastmasters Club. We've got a website, a LinkedIn page, a Facebook page. If you want to make contact through there, and I’ll receive any messages. By all means, our club in particular meets on a Saturday morning, 8:30-10:30 on the second Saturday of the month, and the last Saturday of the month. If you want to start your weekend off with some public speaking, come along.

Brendan: What would people rather do?

Kate: Get up early on a Saturday, go face your fears, and then sleep for the rest of the day because you're exhausted.

Brendan: It makes the rest of the day a lot easier a little bit.

Kate: Yes, it does. Absolutely.

Brendan: I say a little piece at the end about all my guests, but I've been super excited to have you because again, I've been really fortunate to see basically all of your journey. I joined the club a little bit before yourself, so yourself came in. I had my own issues when I started as well and the growth that you've had. I certainly haven’t taken the role as president. What you've done from day one to being this scared person in the car park at Erina Fair and now you're leading Brisbane Water Breakfast Club.

Absolute credit to yourself. I think it’s also a credit to the club and the supportive nature of the club. But I also know that our members are so happy with your style of leadership and what you're doing for the club, to put in some of that structure, and to hopefully make it better for the people moving forward. That’s really a sign of a great leader. Someone that’s putting some steps in place to leave a bit of a legacy and leave the place better than when they found it.

I love your vulnerability. I love your humility. I love how you bring all of those things into your speeches and embrace that nervousness, the shaking of paper, and all that sort of stuff. I know you are going to be a fantastic leader in the future. Whatever you decide to do, you're already a fantastic leader at your workplace but also in Toastmasters. Well done. Keep doing what you're doing. Keep pushing yourself. Keep challenging yourself. Above all, thanks for having the courage for being a guest on The Culture of Things podcast.

Kate: Thank you. As I said, I think I'm almost calmed down—almost—but I might have to hold my glass of water with two hands after we finish. But I must say, it is a credit to our club as well as to why I'm here and being president and stuff. I must thank the club, Brisbane Water Breakfast Toastmasters Club for all their support so far.

Brendan: I wondered if Kate felt safe enough to come on the podcast and share her story. This interview was another massive step for Kate and I'm so happy that she took it. I was super excited to bring her journey to the public forum. I find her journey inspirational and I hope you did, too. Kate, by your own admission, is nobody special, she's just a normal person living a normal life, but she has the courage to do extraordinary things.

I wrote these takeaways a number of days ago and for some reason, I hadn't recorded them until now. It was like the world was telling me to hold off and not record them yet. That something was the story of Kate recently winning the evaluation contest at her club meeting. Her ability to challenge herself is really paying off. Congratulations and well done, Kate.

These were my three key takeaways from my conversation with Kate. My first key takeaway: leaders lead with vulnerability. The level of trust a leader builds with their team is a direct reflection of the level of vulnerability a leader shows. They know their strengths and are not afraid of sharing their weaknesses. They know they will make mistakes and openly share it when they do. For them, these are opportunities to grow. Being vulnerable is the foundation of true leadership.

My second key takeaway: leaders are always improving themselves. They consistently challenged themselves to be better. From the moment Kate made her first move attending a Toastmasters meeting to the time she took on the role as president of her club, she has continually challenged herself. In episode 35, we spoke with Julie Watson about being stronger than your excuses. Kate is definitely stronger than her excuses and she continues to challenge herself to improve.

My third key takeaway: leaders leave a lasting legacy. The true test of a great leader is how well the organisation performs after they've gone, the foundations they create and the culture they have in place for the business to continue to thrive. Kate is doing just that with her focus on back to basics, which also included reviewing the club's purpose and values. The work she's leading is helping current members and laying the foundations for future members. This work will be her lasting legacy.

In summary, my three key takeaways were: leaders lead with vulnerability, leaders are always improving themselves, and leaders leave a lasting legacy. I want to say a massive thank you to you, the listeners. So many have left a review and a comment on Apple Podcast. Thank you. This is truly humbling. 

One of the reviews received was from Andrew and he said, “Thoroughly enjoying the conversational points in these podcasts. As I was listening, I found myself deep in thought reflecting on my experiences, working in, and leading teams.” Thanks Andrew. Your kind words are appreciated. I'm glad they're helping look back on your own experiences.

Now to our competition. To win this week's $30 Jangler gift card of your choice, answer this question. What role has Kate taken on in her Toastmasters club? Send your answer to brendan@brendanrogers.com.au. Thank you for listening. Stay safe. Until next time.


Outtro (music): Thank you for listening to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. Please visit brendanrogers.com.au to access the show notes. If you love The Culture of Things podcast, please subscribe, rate and give a review on Apple podcasts and remember a healthy culture is your competitive advantage.