Public speaking has been a fear of mine, for a very long time. When I share this with people they actually find it hard to believe. They usually see me as someone who enjoys speaking. Well, let me be clear I enjoy talking within a “small” group. Striking up a conversation and getting to know people is enjoyable. In fact, I like learning about others and hearing a person share their life. Yet, when it requires me to speak in a public forum or in front of a large group, I am extremely uncomfortable.
Talking to an audience has never been easy for me. I am nervous, I freeze, my pores begin to extract sweat, and the words that come from my mouth, sound muffled and weak. It is one of the most unpleasant feelings in the world for me. So, about 5 years ago, when a friend invited me to her Toastmasters meeting, I agreed to attend.
I had previously heard of the Toastmasters organization, from a former co-worker. I remember her explaining that Toastmasters was an international organization whose mission is to help people gain confidence in public speaking. She spoke highly of Toastmasters and shared her love for the organization and how it helped her give better presentations and to gain confidence in public speaking.
Well, at the first meeting I attended, I was amazed. I witnessed people stand in front of an audience and speak with confidence. They didn’t appear shy, afraid, or stumble over their words. They were clear, strong, and kept the audience interested, engaged, and entertained.
As the meeting continued, there was a portion called Table Topics. During this part, people volunteered to speak on a topic for 1-2 minutes. It looked scary, but surprisingly, I agreed to try.
I remember the topic being about people who inspired you in life. I immediately thought about my 5th grade teacher, Ms. Johnson. I talked about her stern voice and her high expectations and wanting the best from her students. I even demonstrated her militant walk. When I was done, people clapped and voted me best Table Topic Speaker of the night. I couldn’t believe it!
Then a few weeks later, I joined.
I will admit, it wasn’t easy in the beginning. I struggled with standing in front of people to give a speech. I constantly used notes, which bothered me. However, to overcome these problems, there was constant help from fellow members with speech evaluations, which gave me positive feedback and suggestions to make my speeches better.
I am proud that I have allowed Toastmasters to help me in this area. And I would highly suggest to those who are struggling with speaking in public to do the same. Attend a Toastmasters club, in your area. I guarantee that it will be a great decision. It will help you to get over your fear of public speaking and gain confidence to share your voice, with the world.