Toastmaster Nancy Nyarko on Growing Up Shy
When Nancy Nyarko was a child, she loved using her voice. “Although I was reserved, I was a talker. My siblings used to call me ‘Talking Point,’ named after a TV show that was on the air in those days.”
She picked items around the home to be her audience for imaginary speeches and conferences. “The flowers in my house at that time suffered the most.”
But, like many of us, she felt more comfortable speaking at home than in public. “Because I was shy, I couldn’t go beyond speaking to inanimate objects in my house. I couldn’t stand a crowd, even an audience of five people.”
Today, Nancy works as a compliance specialist in the banking industry. She is also building a career as a professional speaker. She attributes her success to a commitment to lifelong learning and self-improvement — but it has been a challenging journey to get to where she is today.
Struggling as a Student
Nancy says that she kept her enthusiasm for speaking throughout her childhood. “I continued to give speeches in front of the flowers,” she says, “and I was never discouraged from doing that by my family.”
At the same time, her shyness persisted. As she grew older, she began to feel trapped. “The confidence to speak was bottled up inside of me. I couldn’t contribute in meetings or small group discussions. I had ideas I wanted to share, but I never answered or asked questions in class. I was worried that I might make a mistake.”
The Turning Point
For Nancy, all it took to start building her confidence was one speech.
“There came a time when I needed to speak to a crowd. I was hesitant. But I knew I had to do it. I could feel my message ‘boiling up’ inside of me. I felt restless. So I just got up, stood in front of my audience, and started speaking. I spoke with so much confidence and clarity that I even surprised myself.”
It was a turning point for Nancy. “From that day on — after a lot of excuses — I was finally able to speak in front of audiences,” she says.
But she didn’t become a confident speaker overnight. She realized that she had a lot of room for improvement. “I still couldn’t look at my audience’s faces,” she says. “I realized there were more skillful ways to communicate my thoughts and benefit my listeners, so I decided to commit to working on my public speaking skills. If I wanted to impact a large audience with my message, I had to speak well.”
It took some time for Nancy’s confidence as a speaker to grow. But when she realized the value that public speaking skills brought to her life, she didn’t look back. “As I was building my public speaking skills, I realized they were relevant in every aspect of my career and life.”
Nancy credits Toastmasters for kick starting her professional speaking career. “I joined Toastmasters to add excellence to my speaking skills, and I am progressing beautifully.” She has spent the past several years building her career as a professional speaker. She has spoken at events organized by institutions such as the Before I Say I Do (BISID) foundation, Woven Women Network, Women In Ministry Worldwide, and Scripture Union Ghana. She speaks to audiences of all ages, on topics ranging from personal growth and development to entrepreneurship.
She admits that being a professional speaker isn’t without its challenges. “I still get shy anytime I have to give a speech and address an audience. But I’m always able to find the confidence. It’s always there somewhere.”
Nancy says that she found Speeko on social media and was impressed. “Speeko helps me improve my public speaking and communication skills. I use the app to assess my speech delivery, content, and areas I need to improve.”
Nancy says that her passion for public speaking connects to something even more significant: a desire for continuous learning and self-improvement. For Nancy, lifelong learning is more than a motto; it’s her mission. “I believe that lifelong learning and a commitment to be better are a must for every human.”
She says that public speaking changed her life. “Public speaking boosted my confidence, brought clarity and structure to the messages I deliver, and made me stand out among my peers. In my career, it made me the first point-of-call for corporate training activities and representative at meetings, exposing me to new knowledge and a broad network of professionals.”
As a professional speaker, she has discovered how her own journey can inspire those around her. “People see your progress, admire it, and want to be better themselves. They become eager to work on their own personal growth.”
Nancy has advice for people looking to improve their confidence as a speaker. “Keep learning and practicing,” she says. “Find mentors, or join a network you can learn from like Toastmasters International. Use Speeko to guide you.”
And as for the flowers? “I no longer practice speaking in front of flowers. They have been a great audience over the years, and I appreciate their presence at all of my imaginary conferences,” Nancy says with a laugh. “Though I had no idea what I was doing then, I used what I had to grow a skill that I’m benefiting from today. It has taught me that no excuse is relevant for personal growth.”
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