What’s your biggest challenge in public speaking? Is it overcoming your fear of public speaking?
Do you struggle to tell your stories? Does the stage fright scare you off? Are filler words filling up your speeches? Maybe you’re lost with no idea what to give a speech about?
At one point or another, we all face these challenges in public speaking. Right now is your opportunity to make some decisions that will help you solve those problems later.
Welcome to the new year – the Toastmasters New Year – and all the promise that a new year has.
Do you want to overcome your fear of public speaking? Then Toastmasters can help you. Our proven plan can teach you the skills and techniques of public speaking so you can share your message with the world. This is Toastmasters 101 and I’m your host, Kim Krajci.
Getting lost in the plan
Have you ever started a project and watch it go wrong? You’re stuck at a place with no idea what to do next or how to finish it?
Maybe you’re lost on a trip. Maybe you’ve got just enough experience to get yourself in a pickle. Or maybe you just need a better plan.
Public speaking challenges people down to the core of their being. Whether they’re afraid of being judged or afraid of making a fool of themselves, or concerned that they can’t effectively communicate their message – those go down into the center of who we are, who I am as a person. Fear might overcome almost every other emotion we feel – even love, passion, or pleasure.
So how does Toastmasters help your fear of public speaking?
At our essence – the reason that Toastmasters was created – we are here to help people overcome their fears of public speaking. We are here to teach you the techniques to communicate well from the platform or the soapbox.
The primary way we help people is to provide a place to uncover your fears. We give you the freedom to stand up and speak and figure out exactly what your body is doing and how to deal with it.
Now… we don’t talk about it like that. Toastmasters.org has a 3:35 minute video on fears on the website. But when we go to meetings, we don’t often hear about anxiety or fear from the speaker.
But boy, is it demonstrated! We see it at every meeting. Getting up to speak means getting up over your anxiety. At every meeting, we see members doing just that. While we don’t identify the causes of stage fright, our meetings are designed to overcome it.
- Prepared speeches give us the opportunity to find your message. As we develop what we want to say as well as how to craft a speech to be persuasive and effective, we find there’s a power inside us that needs to speak.
- Impromptu speaking – either Table Topics or evaluations – teach us how to think on our feet when we don’t have time to work out our message in advance. Here is where we start to find our voices.
Anxiety is too big to discuss on a 15-minute podcast. I’m not going to try. I can say that for many Toastmasters, we don’t talk about it. We live it.
How many of us struggle with the mental mindset that we don’t have anything to say – or why should anyone listen to us? I struggle with this every week. What do I cover on the podcast? Why should anyone listen to me?
So what is Toastmasters offering to help us – besides a meeting where we don’t talk about it?
Pathways Education Program
We provide an education program that gives you the techniques to prepare you to be a public speaker. In the program, you’ll learn basic skills – like how to walk up to the lectern and speak. How to write a speech – the very basics of research and speech composition. With your first 5 speeches, you’re going to wrestle with the fear that can paralyze you – and walk anyway.
The first 4 prepared speeches we ask you to give are the Ice Breaker speech, where you talk about yourself. The next two speeches are on the topic of your choice – you give it and then, based on the evaluation you received, revise it and give it again. Then the 4th speech is again on a topic of your choice – something you must research and organize your material into a 5 to 7-minute presentation. You will give at least 1 impromptu speech – an evaluation of another speaker.
This set of speech projects isn’t random. Toastmasters has spent over 90 years refining how to teach public speaking skills. We think that the easiest speech you’ll ever have to write is to tell us your own story. Then to learn how to organize and present – and accept an evaluation focused on how you can improve – that’s not something we pulled out of our hats.
If you’re new to Toastmasters, you may not know that you can give any speech you want from your path at any time. If you want to jump to the level 5 speech projects, we can’t stop you. We certainly will try to discourage you from doing that because we know you need the skills that you’re going to learn in Level 1 through 4 first.
Going Through the Pathways Levels
Each level in Pathways is designed to build on the skills you’ve already mastered or information about yourself that you’ve learned. In particular, Level 2 is learning about yourself – your styles, your natural inclinations, your history.
Here’s where I think some people get lost. What does your leadership style have to do with giving a speech? What does being mentored have to do with public speaking?
I see people get confused on Level 2. Confused and sometimes angry. This isn’t what they signed up for, they’re thinking and usually, this is close to the time they need to consider staying a member for another 6 months…
I hear you. I felt the same way. This is why I think you can skip these speeches if you want to –
Level 3 has riches you never imagined.
It’s a treasure trove of public speaking training. Many aspects of public speaking – vocal variety, body language, storytelling – are there.
If the Level 2 speeches – the two style speeches and the mentorship speech – don’t interest you, then skip them. You may want to come back to them later because they do give you some insight into yourself – but don’t let them slow you down or stop you from making progress in overcoming your fear of public speaking.
See – we believe and we’ve got decades of proof –
The best way to overcome fear of public speaking is to do it.
I’ve watched a countless number of people discover that their fear can be overcome. It’s not therapy that these people needed – it’s opportunity. When we don’t know what our body is likely to do once we’re on stage, it’s the fear of the unknown that complicates our ability to deal with the fear of public speaking.
So if you don’t like the next speech in the Pathways sequence – skip it. Move on to something that does interest you and inspire you.
This is Toastmasters New Year. We’ve turned over into our 2020-2021 year and everything is an opportunity.
Pathways is designed as a program with rewards for every level. Those education awards connect with the club because it’s an important way to judge if the club is doing well. Are the members achieving education awards? That shows if the club is supporting the members in their quests to overcome their fear of public speaking and to improve their speech skills.
If you joined Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills, then now is an ideal time to take a look at your current education and your goals and sync them up.
How Often Should You Speak to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking?
This is a question I’ve been asked a few times and I think the answer has to be: more often than you’re comfortable. Because you’re never going to become comfortable until you push through the emotional wall that’s blocking you.
Granted, getting on a club agenda for a prepared speech can be hard when the club has many members and they all want a slot. But I have a secret for you if you’re in a large Toastmasters club.
Don’t look for a speech slot for next week. Look for one a few weeks out. You’re more likely to get a speech slot for a meeting that’s weeks away than for this week if you’re in a large club. In fact…
Ask your club’s vice president of education how far out you can schedule speeches. Consider making it a personal goal to speak at least once a month if you have weekly meetings.
Schedule Yourself in Advance
Now that’s a bit tricky if you have a mind like mine… I tend to forget that I signed up for a role. I have to go and check the agenda every week because I schedule one role per meeting for weeks in advance. Not just speeches – all the roles. I even have a sequence – Toastmaster of the day, Table Topics, Prepared Speech, Evaluator, Timer, General Evaluator, and Grammarian / Word of the Day, and then I start again. In my club, the likelihood that we’ll have an open slot at any given meeting allows me to slide in and get my one speech per month done, even if I don’t have one scheduled that month because I’m filling other roles.
By scheduling myself weeks in advance, I guarantee that I’ll have a role in the meeting – which I could sacrifice if another member needed to fill a slot – that helps me keep my skills up.
If the purpose of my membership is to overcome my fear of public speaking – then I have to speak! With a schedule of roles, I’m sure to speak, even if it’s just to report the times of the speakers – which I do have fun with! If there’s a pun to be made – to be sure, I’ll make it.
It’s that odd speech slot that I need to keep an eye on.
Finishing My Levels
It’s far too easy to fall back into a fear of public speaking if we don’t practice – but when you don’t know that you’re going to speak, if you don’t have a plan, you can set yourself up for frustration.
So take some time this week and sit down with your path open and take a look at what you have to do. If you’re new and not sure about what you’re looking at, call your vice president of education or another advanced Toastmaster from your club to help you understand what you’re facing. Then… and this is the part that most people don’t bother to do… plan your year.
Of course, stuff happens. Sometimes you have to postpone taking a role. But if you make a plan like this, you can complete several levels in one year.
Twelve speeches will get you through at least 3 levels.
In many districts, completing 3 levels in one year is called a Triple Crown – and is honored by the district. It’s not a Toastmasters International award and not all districts offer it. But it’s very doable – even if you don’t get a pin.
Fear of Public Speaking Can Be Overcome
As you face your fear of public speaking, you’ll develop your voice and your message. You might be able to rush this process by speaking more often, but you need to have good evaluators to help you improve. I’ve said many times that you improve faster by doing evaluations than you do by giving speeches. Listen to Toastmasters 101 slash 8 for that episode.
I know many clubs don’t have anyone to fill the evaluator role until the beginning of the meeting – but plan to be an evaluator. Take it very seriously – for the speaker and for yourself.
Giving evaluations does improve your speaking because you’re doing analysis of how you react to a speech. Giving an evaluation is a speech itself – one with little or no preparation – so you’re improving your impromptu speaking skills as well. So make sure you take on the role of evaluator as often as you can. It pays off in the end because you’ll reduce your fear of public speaking because you’ll know you can become a better speaker.
Wrap it up, Kim
When you’re ready to develop your message and find the voice inside you – we’re here for you – Toastmasters and Toastmasters 101 podcast. If you like the podcast, how about subscribing? There are several options to subscribe on the website – Toastmasters 101 dot net – or use your favorite podcast player and subscribe with it.
Toastmasters 101 is a podcast production of Toastmasters District 10.
Our music is from incompetech.filmmusic.io.
It’s been stinking hot here in Ohio this week, so let’s talk about how to keep cool and deal with your fear of public speaking, one symptom at a time.
Join us again next time on Toastmasters 101 podcast.