It is a well publicized fact that public speaking is one of the greatest fears Americans carry. It is also well publicized the amount of horrible moments that come from people that are not comfortable speaking in front of people.
So why don’t more people do something about it?
Regardless of occupation, most of us have to get up in front of a group at some point and give a talk. Even if the audience is the children in the neighborhood and they are simply trying to get a game together, the same skills (and lack of skills in the above reference) are what translate into effectively communicating. Business meetings, parent/teacher conferences, addressing parents of your little league team-there are so many times where we are called on to speak and those fears of getting up in front of a big crowd are also not helping you perform in these tasks.
But there is hope for all those of you who are challenged in speaking arena.
Everyone say it all together…
TOASTMASTERS, TOASTMASTERS, TOASTMASTERS
There is a good chance that somewhere in your town there is a toastmasters meeting in the next 7 days. At that meeting there is an opportunity for you to not only get over the fear of speaking but more importantly to actually refine your skills. Waiting for you at that meeting will be a group of 10-30 adults from varied backgrounds and most of them at some point have had the same paralyzing fear inside about getting up and giving a speech.
For me, toastmasters has been a life changer. Starting with the obvious fact that I have improved my public speaking tremendously from day one. I never had the paralyzing fear of being in front of people but I suffered from a lack of confidence in some situations. In the three years of membership I have also built leadership and mentor-ship skills.
One of the biggest skills we get to work on weekly is our extemporaneous speaking skills. In toastmasters we call it table topics. Every week the “table topics master” will ask a question that you have not prepared for. They can ask anything
What’s your favorite color?
Tell us about your favorite vacation?
Identify your biggest flaw.
You then have up to two minutes and thirty seconds to respond. This is such an amazing skill to get to hone. We use this every day and don’t even realize it. Imagine if you were able to answer an interview question with a well crafted “mini speech” rather than a rambling series of ums and ahs. Or imagine being able to eloquently communicate expectations to a team you are leading at your job.
As with most things that we join there is also unexpected benefits that come with membership. The people at my club are AMAZING. I have made amazing friends as well as professional contacts that cannot be duplicated. But the reason I keep coming back is the people.
So many walks of life represented in a common location with a common goal. And through the speeches that everyone gives you learn so much about their backgrounds, struggles, triumphs, families, and careers. You can literrally become part of their extended families through the stories they share.
I firmly believe that everyone will get something out of attending a meeting and more than you could expect from joining a group. I will always be a member and you are always welcome!