Toastmasters: Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

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Who here has a fear of public speaking?

Those of you who know me know that I can talk to just about anyone anywhere.  Those who don’t know me will find out really soon how much I like to talk.

But did you know that having to do a speech really makes me nervous?  Let me explain.  I can talk about a variety of subjects with friends, family and even strangers.  However, when I have to do a formal speech in front of a crowd, I shake and freeze up.  I get tongue-tied and go on lots of tangents (which everyone knows is expected from me during informal speaking).  When speaking in public, you have to have your thoughts organized and you need to keep your audience with you or people start to snore.

I found a great solution to my fear.  It is a club called Toastmasters.  Let me tell you a little bit about it.

Toastmasters was founded in 1924 at the YMCA in Santa Ana, California. Toastmasters International has grown to become a world leader in helping people become more competent and comfortable in front of an audience. The nonprofit organization now has nearly 235,000 members in 11,700 clubs in 92 countries, offering a proven – and enjoyable! – way to practice and hone communication and leadership skills.

That is 84 years of people learning how to speak in public.  But that is not all that Toastmasters teaches.  I relate my Toastmasters group to a theater group. Both my nieces are in Rainbow Theater group here in Las Vegas and although they are not an actor in every play they do play an important part through the set crew, the lighting crew, stage management, etc.  In Toastmasters, you learn not only how to feel comfortable speaking but how to evaluate, time speeches, organize meetings and really listen to what others have to offer to you.  How does this sound so far?

The meeting I belong to is in the building that I work so it makes it very convenient for me to attend the meetings.  I have already made a lot of friends through this group so it is also a way to meet new people. Most Toastmasters meetings are comprised of approximately 20 people who meet weekly for an hour or two. Participants practice and learn skills by filling a meeting role, ranging from giving a prepared speech or an impromptu one to serving as timer, evaluator or grammarian.

There is no instructor. Instead, there is a Toastmaster who leads that specific meeting.  Each meeting has a different Toastmaster to help keep the meeting running smoothly and introduce the speakers and evaluators.  Each speech and meeting is critiqued (evaluated) by a member in a positive manner, focusing on what was done right and what could be improved.   This is where Toastmasters excels the most in leadership skills.

As many businesses realize, presentation skills are crucial to success in the workplace. Many people pay high fees for seminars to gain the skill and confidence necessary to face an audience. Although you may feel that these seminars are necessary, a benefit that Toastmasters provides is an option that is less expensive and held in high regard in business circles. This organization offers a proven – and enjoyable – way to practice and hone communication and leadership skills.  Toastmasters is a good club to practice speeches and be critiqued in a positive manner by your peers.  Toastmasters is the best place to learn, to build your confidence, and to push yourself outside your comfort zone. It’s a safe place where there is no penalty for failure!

Another benefit of Toastmasters is it provides many opportunities for members to practice positive leadership skills. Great leaders are recognized by the positive effects they have on people. They promote teamwork, encourage excellence, foster growth and even offer criticism in a productive way. People with good communication skills are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions, and good leaders need communication skills to be effective. In Toastmasters, members take turns filling various meeting roles, giving everyone access to hands-on leadership and team-building experience. It’s a place to try your hand at leadership instead of just reading about it.

Most people come to Toastmasters to overcome their fear of public speaking. So at Toastmasters meetings, what you’ll see – among other things – are demonstrations of courage.

     Become “other-conscious by focusing on your audience.

     Anxiety feels worse than it looks.  Fake it until you make it – show no fear and it will not be seen.

     Make it look easy.  The audience wants to hear the speech and not worry about the speaker. Be humble.

     Let yourself be encouraged. Embrace the supportive atmosphere and nourish the feelings of success.

You may not think so at the moment, but you do have a message to share.

Define yourself and your message

What is your philosophy?

List the defining moments of your life

What subjects and issues are you certain about?

Find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

What makes you laugh?

What makes you angry?

What are you struggling with right now?

Toastmasters offers different workbooks to help its members on the leadership and communication tracks.

Competent Communication manual features 10 projects that will help a member to develop their speaking skills one step at a time. When you finish all of the projects, you are eligible for Competent Communicator (CC) recognition. The member will receive a CC certificate and, if this is your first CC award, two Advanced Communication Series manuals free

Advanced Communication SeriesAfter receiving CC recognition, you can work in the Advanced Communication Series manuals, where you’ll refine and enhance your speaking skills and become eligible for Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB), Advanced Communicator Silver (ACS) and Advanced Communicator Gold (ACG) recognition. There are 15 manuals, each containing five speech projects. Many of the manuals are career-oriented. You choose the manuals you want to complete and the skills you want to learn.

The Competent Leadership manual is the core of the leadership track. It features 10 projects, which you complete while serving in various club meeting roles. An evaluator will give you feedback on each project, helping you to improve. When you complete the manual, you are eligible for Competent Leader recognition. You’ll receive a CL certificate and, if you wish, World Headquarters will send your employer a letter about your accomplishment. 

Advanced Leader Program
After earning the CL award you can further refine and develop your leadership skills by working in the advanced leader program. Members working in this program are eligible for Advanced Leader Bronze (ALB) and Advanced Leader Silver (ALS) recognition.

In Toastmasters, members acquire the habit of courage through encouragement and support. Toastmasters is a sort of “Inward Bound” program. Speaking before an audience becomes easier the more often you do it.

Toastmasters goals for their members is to help them to:

Learn to communicate more effectively 

Become a better listener. 

Improve your presentation skills 

Increase your leadership potential 

Become more successful in your career 

Build your ability to motivate and persuade 

Reach your professional and personal goals 

Increase your self confidence.

The tools you will receive is to:

Build speaking and leadership skills with time-tested methods 

Focus on areas of interest in our self-paced curriculum 

Receive suggestions for improvement through constructive evaluations

To recap some of the benefits of these Toastmasters programs are:

Inexpensive 

Interactive 

Convenient 

Friendly 

Supportive

I have been a member of toastmasters since June 2008 and it was the best decision I have made for myself.  I get my own stage, my own stories to share and I even publish my speeches online to share with others.

Remember these inspiring words:

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
– Anais Nin
 

 “You can gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along’… You must do the thing you cannot do.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

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