Sunday, November 25, 2012

Talking About Flying is not 'Speaking' About Flying

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor
(
This is part one of a two-part series.)

According to a study from the National Institute of Mental Health, 74% of the public is fearful about standing in front of an audience of strangers in a "public speaking" capacity.

But in all of our lives, we are offered many opportunities to do just that, go to the lectern at the front of a room and speak positively about what we love. And when that topic is aviation, it makes perfect sense to seek out and grab those opportunities when they become available.

Service groups such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Active 20-30, your church group, local Community Colleges, Men's and Women's Clubs, middle and high schools, these are all organizations that are in a constant search for speakers for their meetings or events. Sometimes all it takes is a short email to the right person to get an invitation to take command of the room for 15-30 minutes and enlighten the audience about what is so fantastic about flying.

And a room full of the non-flying public, all hanging on your every word, is a golden moment for a pilot who is also a trained public speaker. At the lectern, you wait for the clapping to subside before grabbing their full attention:
After opening with a heartfelt story of how you took your grandchild on their first airplane ride, you follow with the excitement you felt when you flew your 1,000th Young Eagles flight. With the early jitters now gone, you relax and tell the audience how you use your airplane to gain a competitive advantage in business. Now hitting your stride, you segue into the way flying gives you the ultimate freedom, and how being a private pilot allows you to live a fuller, more convenient life. You conclude with a dramatic wrap-up of the speech, building to a crescendo of excitement and applause erupts. As you leave the stage, a number of audience members circle you...intrigued, they MUST know more. You answer questions about the cost of learning to fly, about the inherent dangers of flying GA airplanes, and about the complexities of communicating with ATC. As you leave the room, you have contact info from people who are now curious about aviation, and as you exit the building, a grin appears on your face when you realize that on this night, you made a small contribution to help push GA forward.
But of course, you are reading this and asking yourself how hard it would be to stand in front of that crowd, all eyes on you, and string coherent sentences together that are both interesting and informative. I'm not going to lie to anyone and say it is easy, but with a little help, it can be a skill learned by anyone with very little time or cash investment:
As a trained speaker myself – after learning the skill as a five-year advanced member of Toastmasters International – I can confirm that the 74% statistic might be a bit low. My time in Toastmasters was worth the small fee to join this popular and high-successful club, and I watched as a steady stream of the 74% came in and slowly gained confidence by learning public speaking in a friendly, non-confrontational environment. On their first trip to the lectern, sweat flowed from their pores as they stood exposed and vulnerable staring at their shoes. But in their second speech, they started to gain a little more confidence, and by their fifth Toastmasters speech, all nervousness was gone and they could focus on skill building. And by the completion of the first 10 speeches – which are mandatory and well organized – every one of those 74% were fully capable of organizing a topic, assembling props and making their points clearly without a hint of jitters.
I am living proof that the Toastmasters curriculum works perfectly. I had zero experience speaking in public before I joined, and now have been a forum speaker at Oshkosh on a number of occasions. I've spoke before numerous groups in Oregon, such as EAA chapters but also non-traditional groups that were not focused on aviation. These engagements have been very successful, and gave me a very powerful sense of satisfaction knowing I might have started the process of bringing someone new into aviation.

I believe that for our aviation family to thrive and grow, we all need to reach out to the non-flying public and explain just how awesome our world is, while at the same time inviting those people to come take a look at the camaraderie and excitement that can be found out at the local GA airfield.

For most pilots, becoming a seasoned public speaker will require some sort of training, and for that I highly recommend Toastmasters International. The dues are low, the meetings are fun, and no matter where you are, there will be several clubs in your city that meet at different times to make one of them a perfect fit for your busy schedule. Click here to find a club near you, and yes, you can attend as a guest for no charge just to see if you're a good fit for that particular club.

Stay tuned right here for part two of this series as I will present some of what I have learned as a Toastmaster, and pass along a few tips and tricks to help you bridge the gap between being scared to death of speaking and becoming a full-on motivational powerhouse.