The other day I started thinking a lot about the benefits of joining Toastmasters as it relates to helping me control my fear of public speaking. I’ve written about this in the past, but I didn’t realize how much this was connected to my membership in Toastmasters.
Being a member of an organization like Toastmasters has it’s tangible, direct benefits. Here is a small list of these benefits that can direct help you in reducing/controlling fear:
- Safe, stress-free environment for practicing
- Instant positive and constructive feedback
- Variety of experience levels of members to learn from
These benefits can help anyone learn to reduce and control their fear. But something happened to me over the last few days that made me look back at Toastmasters and made me realize that there is something else that can help reduce and control the fear: networking.
Here’s what happened. I was having a yard sale at my house on Saturday. Later in the morning I saw an older gentleman approach the yard. I immediately recognized him. Lee was a guest at my local Toastmaster’s club, Salem Speech Masters. He came with another guest, Ali. I sprang up from my chair and went over to greet him. He recognized my face but couldn’t figure out how he knew me. Then it hit him: Salem Speech Masters, my local Toastmasters club.
We talked for 15 to 20 minutes about a variety of subjects. When he left, I felt good that I got to talk to someone I knew and it made the day a little more fun. I also realized how easy it was to simply strike up a conversation with someone that I didn’t know too well.
Later that week, 3 days later to be exact, I was in a local grocery store. I saw another gentleman that I too immediately recognized. It was Ali, the other guest that came with Lee. He knew exactly who I was and where he knew me. Again, we spoke for about 10 minutes and then I went on my way. Again, it made me feel good that a) I recognized someone I knew and was able to distract myself from the boring shopping chore, and b) I was able to have this conversation with another person that I didn’t know too well.
It was then that I started to see the additional fear controlling benefits of being a member of Toastmasters. I had only met the two people a few times before our encounters of this past week. However, I felt comfortable enough to start and carry on a conversation with them. I’ve mentioned this type of confidence building exercise in the past: being able to talk to anyone can greatly reduce your fear of speaking in public (see Breaking The Comfort Zone).
Over the years I’ve developed enough confidence that I can start and carry on conversations with just about anyone I meet. This has been a major factor in my ability to control my fear of public speaking and learn how to reduce the stress, anxiety, and panic when it comes time to speak. Having a group like Toastmasters has helped me network and connect with people I would normally not get a chance to meet.
Think about this: When was the last time you were able to start and carry on a conversation with someone you didn’t know at all or barely knew? Try starting a conversation with everyone you meet. You’ll soon find that you’re able to control your fear of public speaking more easily.
For more information about Toastmasters, visit their website at http://www.toastmasters.org
For more information about my local Toastmasters club, Salem Speech Master, go to http://speechmasters.freetoasthost.us. We meet on the 1st and 3rd Monday at 7:00 PM in the YMCA of Salem, NH.
Until next time, speak well.