Toastmasters is an international organization that helps people hone their communication and leadership skills. Per the Toastmasters website, the organization was founded in Santa Ana, CA in 1924.
I have contemplated joining Toastmasters for a fear years, but I had never acted on it. Last year, 2008, I attended a few meetings through out the year. Towards the end year, I had an opportunity to speak for my work group at a meeting at Rice University. I declined the opportunity to speak in front of such a distinguished group out of my fear for public speaking. I decided I will not allow my fear of public speaking to hold me back anymore.
1. Fear – The most obvious reason for joining Toastmasters is that I want to rid myself of the fear of public speaking. I am terrified anytime I am speaking in front of more than a handful of people and that is not acceptable to me any longer. I’ve always had a fear of public speaking, but I think the embarrassment that really propelled my fear into an all out panic came during my freshman year of college at UT Austin. I was in an English literature class and we had to take turns reading out of some novel. While reading out of the novel in front of the class, I froze. It probably wasn’t a big deal, but I heard a few people snicker. I’m sure that all sounds pretty lame, but from that point forward, I’ve had a pretty difficult time with public speaking.
3. Confidence – Anytime you conquer a fear or achieve a goal, you are going to feel good about yourself. I don’t think I’m that bad at public speaking, but I feel that Toastmasters will help boost and sustain my confidence in public speaking so I don’t miss future opportunities to “stand out” from the crowd.
4. Life Skill – Toastmasters is yet another tool I can add to my tool box that adds more value and increases my ability to be employed. Even if you are not employed and perhaps volunteer for a non-profit organization, public speaking is a valuable tool that you will be able to use in any facet of life.
5. Leadership – Toastmasters will also give me the ability to sharpen my leadership skills. Members in Toastmasters are often asked to run meetings and other activities that would allow me to sharpen my leadership skills.
6. Think on your feet – During Toastmasters meetings, people are put on the spot and asked to give an impromptu speech about the topic presented. I’ve participated in this before and it’s really interesting what stories I’ve been able to put together because I don’t consider myself to be very good at impromptu speeches. I’m more of a sit, think, analyze, and then speak sort of person.
Are you an accomplished public speaker? If so, were you a member of Toastmasters? Is public speaking something you fear? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Photo by: Iggy