You really don\’t need a cape – but it helps (Part 2)

My quest to be a better speaker began when I began my career with the American Cancer Society more than 24 years ago. Being a good public speaker was instrumental in my success as a leader in the community and working with other leaders.

Part 2 of a 2 part series on my quest to become a better public speaker

My quest to be a better speaker began when I began my career with the American Cancer Society more than 24 years ago. Being a good public speaker was instrumental in my success as a leader in the community and working with other leaders. As I improved my skills as a trainer, training volunteers and staff at the American Cancer Society throughout the years – I found joy in the days that I hit the message spot on and received great feedback from my participants. The success and feedback came in ways of securing a new sponsorship, recruiting board members and building corporate teams.


Fast forward to present time – this past year as a part of my professional goals I added to be a better public speaker. I had a lot of experience in this area, but never really focused on the skills or the details necessary to be really good. Public speaking came natural to me with my extroverted personality and I had this great feeling of accomplishment when my speeches were well received and made an impact.

This past year in August I joined Toastmaster\’s after spending some time with a Public Speaking Coach (Gavin) in a Catchafire skills based volunteer opportunity. Toastmaster\’s gave me the audience and the pathway to gain the skills needed to be the best public speaker I could be. The Speakeasy Toastmaster\’s of Northampton was a welcoming club with high level speakers and dedicated to growth and development of their members. I truly appreciate the camaraderie of this club and so happy I joined.


Part 2 of my quest to be a better public speaker the questions below are questions to ask yourself when you on this path of being a better speaker. Thanks for reading along!

11.What are your best memories of speaking? When I was first diagnosed with cancer I spoke to the New England American Cancer Society Relay For Life University. There were 500 people in the room. I was terrified, yet I felt surrounded by people who loved and cared about me. Those early days of my cancer diagnosis and meeting people across the country, all over the globe – speaking about my journey with cancer inspired so many. I look back now and can\’t believe all I accomplished during that challenging time in my life and I feel truly blessed.

12.Who inspires you in their speaking? There are so many speakers that have been inspirational to me. I have a favorite list on my YouTube channel of my favorite TED talks and they all inspire me to be a better speaker. Each day I find a new talk recommended or discovered online through my interest areas that speaks to me — literally! I love watching new speakers speak and share their stories in the Icebreaker activity. Watching new speakers get better is truly inspiration as part of the Toastmaster activity. Our President Cynthia Zaitz is a true inspiration for her love of speaking and the stories she shares as well as the encouragement to others to give good evaluations so we can all get to be better speakers in a supportive environment.

13.What speakers make you want to give up? Hopefully I don\’t meet those kind of speakers! Those that are beyond helping others, they don\’t care about their audience, just about the glory of being on stage. That type of speaker turns me off. Period.

14.How do you divide your time between delivering ideas and creating them? On the pathways curriculum it has been about discovering my style, leadership style, communication style and structuring the speeches. As I branch out into the improv and the Story Slam – I think that creation will take more time than I have spent in the past and I look forward to honing in on my favorite stories and telling them with skill and ease.

15.What’s your overall elevator pitch? Survive and Thrive! My speech in 3 words, I thought about it today as it was asked as a question to join this group of speakers in my region. I love to share my story of surviving cancer, because what I went through, how I stepped up to that challenge in life in a BIG way has inspired so many others, facing cancer, wanting to be stronger than cancer. Keep doing what you do, if you fall get up, lift your head high – take it in stride and show the world what you are made of — have faith.


16.At what point do you come alive on stage – before you walk on, when you walk on, or three minutes after you start? My goal is to come alive sooner in the process — it takes a little warming up to the audience before I come alive and i need to start as strong as I finish. Breathe – take it in – and try to warm up in 30 secs. 🙂

17.What are the physical effects of speaking on you? I get so energized when I am on stage! I love the audience connection — I want to reach every single one of them – so I look around the room, seeing who is paying attention, who I may be losing and who desperately needs to hear what I have to say. The effects are incredible for my confidence, my internal inspiration of being a better speaker and my desire to connect with people.

18.What are the emotional effects of speaking on you? My desire to succeed shows in my emotions — if a speech doesn\’t go well, maybe I didn\’t rehearse enough, maybe the content didn\’t connect with the audience, what ever the case – it is draining to not be at your best. My opinion is when you bring in the emotion of the story into your speech you are vulnerable to feelings inside of you and bring out those feelings in others.

19.What do you want the audience to be saying about you afterwards? The best compliment is when someone or multiple people in the audience come to you and say that what you had shared really \”spoke\” to them, and they were inspired and touched by the words. When you reach someone\’s heart and soul with your message you have succeeded. That is why it is so important to know your audience – connect with them and know what you are sharing is meaningful and they can relate some how to the subject.

20.What are you going to say in your last speech? My Dad never stopped telling stories….. I hope I never stop speaking, but if I do it will be filled with meaningful antidotes and inspirational quotes that will touch their hearts.

Spread the love, be kind, be gracious and know that everyone is fighting a battle in some way in their life. Don\’t just speak – listen.

Thanks for stopping by ! Tell me about your speaking experience and your favorite stories to tell! Please leave a comment below!

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Nancy Cook 2021

About Nancy

Nancy Peck Cook is a trainer and speaker who has presented in front of large and small audiences for the past 25 years.  Her work as an executive and volunteer trainer for the American Cancer Society during the growth of the signature activity Relay For Life trained professionals to be more confident and successful in their roles. 

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