Advenures in Toastmasters: Day 2

In my first Toastmasters blog, I talked about my first Toastmasters meeting and how I was nervous/excited about joining a group that would allow me to help expand my public speaking skills. In this entry, I am going to talk about how having a group like Toastmasters can help anyone with fear and anxiety speak well.

It’s Monday, August 5th, 2008, and it’s my second Toastmasters meeting. I don’t feel any anxiety or nervousness this time. Instead of staring at the clock waiting for the time to leave, I’m actually rushing to get there on time. I’m ready for whatever the night has to offer. I arrive about 5 minutes early and there’s only a small group tonight, 5 others. I know that I will have a role to play tonight (I volunteered at the last meeting to be the “timer” for this meeting).

The meeting goes as I expected. There were informal topics about the Olympics that were discussed. I got to share my opinion on politics and the role it plays in the Olympics. Vlad gave a great speech about “removing TV from your everyday life” and how it’s helped him. Other than that, there’s nothing especially interesting about the meeting.

However, the really interesting part of the night was after the meeting. Bob, a visiting Toastmaster, and I were talking to Vlad about his speech. Bob was Vlad’s evaluator for his speech. Bob gave Vlad some great feedback on his speech. Bob, Vlad, and I were talking about storytelling in speeches and how the use of it can help a speaker. We explained to Vlad that incorporating personal stories draws the audience in. It also helps the speaker remember the speech since they are telling a story from their own experience.

Then Bob told Vlad and I a story about a young lady who was part of his Toastmasters group. According to Bob, this young lady’s first talk consisted of her staring at her feet and saying “I can’t talk in front of people. I can only talk to horses and dogs”. Bob explained that she worked in a pet store. Her fear of speaking forced her to only stare down when talking in front of a group of people. Bob then told us that over the course of the year, she ended up winning the clubs Most Improved award, and eventually went on to win one of the Toastmasters speaking contests.

I mention this story because it shows that with the proper tools, environment, and practice, anyone can overcome their fear and become a great speaker. I truly believe that there is a great speaker in everyone. The trick is finding a way to let that person shine through. For Bob’s friend, it was joining Toastmasters and getting the opportunity to speak again and again.

I would like to end this post with a great quote I found recently. It’s from the former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. She said “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” Or as Nike put it “Just Do It”.

Speak well!


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2 thoughts on “Advenures in Toastmasters: Day 2

  1. Oh my gosh, you have no idea what you are talking about. You are someone who showed up to the meeting feeling “excitement”. Have you ever had a panic attack? Have you ever had a panic attack while you are expected to speak with a room full of people looking at you. Have you ever been hit so hard by adrenaline that you can barely breathe, let alone think and speak? And even worse it’s proven that our most intense memories are formed when we are in a heightened state of emotion. So what does the panicked public speaker remember the most? That’s right, he remembers the intense fear and panic. And that creates a cycle of the fear building upon itself. This is a serious problem that keeps people living lives that are a tiny shadow of their full potential. I think that before you have a website about public speaking panic, you should at least have a clue about the subject.

  2. Vicki,

    I’m sorry it took so long to get back to you on this comment. Just from your response I can tell how strong the feelings are that you have when you think about public speaking. But I can tell you, with 100% certainty, that I DO know about panic and I DO know what it’s like to stand in front of a crowd with the feeling of dread, panic, fear, and all of the other emotions that make you feel horrible about being up there. However, I can also tell you that as a former-panic attack sufferer, that there ARE ways to turn that intense emotion into a positive. It takes time, practice, and a willingness to “look fear in the face” in order to overcome that fear. It took me a long time. It didn’t happen overnight. I still get a sense of “panic” when I think about having to speak. However, I’ve done it enough now that I know how to take the nervousness and turn it into excitement.

    I hope that someday you can feel at least comfortable enough in front of a crowd that you don’t feel panic and that you can also feel the sense of accomplishment that giving a speech can give someone. It’s a pretty incredible feeling.

    Best of luck.

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