Chin-Hwi Ang never had a problem getting up in front of a crowd to perform.
But having the confidence to speak her mind was an area she felt was lacking.
After finally “plucking up the courage” to do an eight-week communications course with a Toastmasters Club, Ang developed the confidence she had felt she was lacking and has not looked back.
The Newcastle 38-year-old, who has Chinese-Malaysian heritage, described the experience as “life-changing” and felt it helped her develop a range of skills she now implements in both social and professional settings.
“When I was growing up I wasn’t very confident and comfortable about speaking up about things. Even being able to communicate with family in a way that was accepted," she said.
“I went through some self-esteem issues in my teenage years and couldn’t understand it.
“In terms of communicating and performing, there were no problems; I can stand in front of a group. But in terms of speaking out in things I am passionate about I felt that I fell short there.”
Ang found the public-speaking course in 2010 so enriching that she has continued to be involved with Toastmasters ever since.
“Initially, I joined to improve my communication skills, and to control the use of filler words [such as ‘um’, ‘ah’ and ‘you know’],” she said.
“An added benefit was my eye contact and body gestures improved as well. From there, leadership opportunities developed.”
Ang has over 30 years experience as a musical performer and felt acquiring new strategies for communicating has helped her on stage as well.
“I’ve probably become more of an entertainer, that’s been the really interesting thing,” she said.
She also said it has also made her less serious.
“In Chinese culture there is the perception of having to be serious,” she said.
“It has helped me be able to be real and to be able to laugh at myself.”
She wanted to share her experience because she hoped to inspire others like her who had suffered in silence to learn how to speak up and communicate more effectively.
“There are lots of people coming in who are quite professional in their own industries but they realise that they find it a challenge to present to their peers,” she said.
“There are lots of entrepreneurial people coming in because they want to do video blogs.
“Some people think it is a soapbox, but it’s actually an opportunity to work with guidelines and following an educational program for communication and leadership.”
Toastmasters clubs are not-for-profit organisations.
Find out more: www.jointoastmasters.org.au