Creating a public speaking club

In Curitiba, BR, Toastmasters clubs are scarce. Until recently, a few specialized TM clubs had existed. Now, even those no longer appear in the search.

While I had transferred my TM membership to a weekly virtual club, it doesn’t challenge or excite me to the extent of a physical space. I wanted more physical speaking practice, and in an organized, prepared fashion.

I decided to create such a space myself. Focusing on the public speaking aspects I consider of greater marginal benefit, I envision a far less formal and scripted interaction than Toastmasters. Mainly, I want to provide speaking, listening, and evaluating opportunities, without any tradition or formal curriculum.

In fact, I imagined a hybrid between Toastmasters and something to the likes of comedy OpenMic. As I had briefly commented in the past, this short comedy format caught my attention. I wasn’t sure what path it would take me, but the phenomenon continued to occupy my mental playground.

In my three months in Kraków, I had actively attended one of the weekly OpenMic sessions in a smokey basement. It was a vulgar and intoxicating setting. Comedy OpenMic to public speaking is what pornography is to mainstream cinema. Amateur, half-improvised pornography. With much repetition. And racism. No group was spared. Yet it entertained. Sometimes.

I continued to brainstorm possible OpenMic material, considering the comedy milestone a formidable challenge in public speaking development. And the prospect of facing that audience didn’t much frighten me. It was a matter of material. I didn’t have any. Granted, it would only require barely humorous content to justify the 5-minute stage presence. Someone would laugh in pity anyway. The OpenMic audience tends to be forgiving and encouraging.

However, despite my attempts, I couldn’t even compose one minute of humorous content I considered worthy. Perhaps my humor, subtle in nature, doesn’t lend itself to the aggressive story-telling form characteristic of OpenMic? I tend to reflect on this dilemma. In part, there is truth in that I don’t find raw, biased storytelling my desired form of communication. I recognize it as an important form. I value it in others. Yet I don’t relate to it personally. The idea of speaking superfluously causes me to cringe. Of course, one need not necessarily speak superfluously. There is room for engaging, quality, humorous and minimalist storytelling. Alas, although skeptical, I haven’t yet eliminated the avenue from pursuit.

While the OpenMic presentation style causes me certain difficulty to relate, the format inspires that element of simplicity and effectiveness. Participants come for that speaking and audience-engagement practice. The organizer fills in the gaps with own contributing material. Beyond that, few ceremonies are observed. It’s not a school, nor a craftily-organized play. Rather, it’s a space to have fun and personally develop.

This is the attitude I wanted to inspire upon the public speaking practice club I recently announced. Having advertised the début event only three days in advance, I’m curious to the nature of the attendance. On meetup.com, the platform I placed most emphasis for divulging the club, I noticed severe contention among other groups that same evening. It probably will not help. Yet I’ll be prepared, be it zero, one other participant, or twenty.