By Paul T
Before I dive into this post, a disclaimer: I am not currently employed by Toastmasters or receiving any sort of compensation for spreading the word. I am a member and a fan. That’s all.
For those of you who don’t know, Toastmasters is an international organization with independent clubs that run weekly meetings that allow people to practice public speaking and develop leadership skills. Check it out – http://www.toastmasters.org/.
I’m not sure what the exact statistic is (or how it was determined), but you have most likely heard it too: most people are more afraid of public speaking than death. Seriously. It’s that scary. I count myself among those who find public speaking to be nerve-wracking. For me, I think it’s a mix of a fear of being judged, and a fear of being perceived as stupid and possibly saying something really offensive or dumb by accident. I’m sure there are other insecurities in the mix but for me those are the two biggies.
I have been a member of Toastmasters for over two years now, and I will soon be doing the last of 10 speeches in the manual I received when I signed up. Over the course of delivering these 10 speeches I have grown and become a more competent speaker. I know this from the feedback I have received from fellow members, from their reactions during the speeches I have given, and by the level of confidence I now feel when presenting. I am light years ahead of where I was when I started.
So what is Toastmasters really? It is an opportunity to have practical experiences that will allow you to face your fear and get familiar with what fear looks like, and what it feels like to overcome it. Just like many things in life, practice makes perfect. The more you do it the more natural it will become. The fear most likely won’t disappear (it hasn’t for me), but Toastmasters gives an opportunity to learn how to manage it.
The biggest gift that Toastmasters has given me is the confidence to speak even when I am afraid. I am now better able to manage my fear and expectations. I don’t know if I have the words to communicate to you how liberating this is.
We all want to make positive changes in our lives. Many times we have to overcome our fears to do this. Fear becomes easier to manage and navigate the more we face it. Toastmasters offers a safe space to help you learn how to face your fear. So if you aren’t a member and consider public speaking to be a challenge, I invite you to face your fears.