Public Speaking – Do I have to?

Do you have a fear of speaking in front of a group of people? How about getting out and networking? Do you hide in the corner and hope no one sees you?

That was me!

For most of my career I hid behind a computer and telephone. There were rare occasions when I had to give an internal or client presentation. I knew the subject matter and could plan it out well in advance, so that wasn’t so scary.

But speaking on my feet – that was a totally out of my comfort zone.

My career changed and I had to move out of the back office and into the public eye, representing the company at networking and other business events. I would force myself to go, and it was painful. I dreaded it.

Joining Toastmasters

I contemplated how to overcome this fear. I had heard about Toastmasters back in 2006. On an annual review, I stated that one of my goals was to join Toastmasters. (My boss at the time didn’t know what Toastmasters was, and thought it was a drinking club.)

Well, I didn’t join then. I was too afraid to even go to a meeting. In fact, it was 2012 before I finally attended my first meeting – 6 years later! It was immediately obvious to me that this organization could help me achieve my goal of finally getting over my fear of public speaking and, more specifically, speaking on my feet.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization with the mission of teaching communication and leadership skills. Sounds pretty formal and boring, right?

Far from it. Each meeting is very organized, with different roles members perform. There are a couple sections of the meeting that are all about fun and laughing. Laughter not only puts you at ease, it actually helps you learn faster.

It’s not painful now

During the five years I’ve been a Toastmaster, I’ve delivered over 60 speeches and about 10 presentations. Now it’s not painful to get out there to speak with people. I’ve also completed a number of leadership programs, which was a nice bonus I hadn’t planned on.

The biggest surprise about joining Toastmasters is the people I’ve met and the lifelong friends I’ve made. The members are diverse in every aspect: 18-years-old to late 90’s; from 142 countries; different religious and political backgrounds; and different careers, ranging from unemployed to business owners, and retirees. We all come together, in the most gentle and positive environment, with the common goal of improving ourselves.

Change your world

In almost all jobs there is some form of public speaking. Whether you’re getting up in front of your peers to give a presentation or out in front of your clients, communication and leadership skills are extremely important to your success.

When you become a great speaker, your world will change. You’ll be more confident. You’ll be a better leader. You will be unstoppable. Don’t let fear stop you from moving out of your comfort zone and speaking in public.

Consider joining Toastmasters, and change your world.

To learn more about Toastmasters, please visit www.toastmasters.org.

Here’s to finding you voice! Cheers!

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