This morning I gave my last speech for my public speaking class. We were assigned to give a persuasive speech and I thought a perfect subject would be Toastmasters. Most people are deathly afraid of public speaking so why not persuade my peers to join a club that will assuage their fears? The speech was a hit this morning and I think my teacher was surprised and interested to hear about this organization. Toastmasters has brought me an immense amount of happiness since I joined this past June and I hope that you’ll give Toastmasters a chance as well! My mom, dad, and thousands of other people have learned to love public speaking because of this club!
There’s an epidemic that is spreading like wildfire. No one is exempt; men, women, young, old…glossophobia seems inescapable these days. According to the website called Fear of Public Speaking Statistics, updated in 2010, up to 75% of the population suffers from speech anxiety and some would even choose death over speaking in front of an audience. Does this sound like you?
Well, I have a cure for you. Rather than avoiding public speaking like the plague, the solution to your possible phobia is to join a speaking club that is internationally renowned and well esteemed by many: Toastmasters. As I learned from the Toastmasters International website updated in 2010, and from the Toastmasters brochure which I received when I became a member this past June, Toastmasters was established in 1924 and has over 226,000 members and over 11,000 clubs in 90 countries. If they’ve helped remedy so many people’s greatest fear for so many years, isn’t it high time you got your Toastmasters shot?
Here is an unavoidable truth: communication and public speaking skills are essential.
But here is another truth: speaking can be great fun. Let Toastmasters help you with not only your speaking and listening skills, but also with weekly participation during club meetings that improve your overall communication skills.
I know that you’ve already given a few speeches in this class, but in Toastmasters, you will give ten different speeches to earn your Competent Communicator Award, which I learned about when I received the Toastmaster’s International Competent Communicator Manual upon joining, which was revised in July of 2009. Your first speech is called the “Icebreaker” where you introduce yourself to the club and after that, it is your responsibility to come up with a variety of relatable, informative, and interesting speeches.
Structure and organization are key elements of preparing a speech and Toastmasters will allay your fears by teaching you how to successfully outline and plan a speech. Word choice, grammar, vocabulary, and rhetorical devices are also crucial and this club will tell you how to distinguish between jargon and dynamic statements.
More than just the words of a speech though, Toastmasters emphasize the presentation. A great goal that all Toastmasters attain to is to speak comfortably in front of an audience with visible confidence rather than noticeable fear. Using your body to your advantage is highly suggested. This is done by utilizing the full space of the room, using meaningful gestures, and by making eye contact with your audience.
After a member has delivered their speech, an evaluator will give compliments on what the speaker did well on as well as helpful critiques for what the speaker could improve on. According to the manual I was given, entitled “Effective Evaluations” updated in April 2010, an evaluator prepares beforehand by talking to the speaker about what they will be speaking on and what they would like to improve on. They will write in the speaker’s Competent Communicator Manual regarding how well they followed the guidelines of the speech assignment. Speakers receive similar mini-evaluations from all members of the club for positive reinforcement and helpful feedback.
The evaluator will then give a brief 2-3 minute speech in front of the club where they comment on the speaker’s strengths and weaknesses. They might give advice like “You need to slow down a bit so that the audience can understand you.” (I get that one a lot!) But they give very kind remarks like, “You have excellent eye contact and you were very effective with your vocal variety.”
Even though you usually give a speech about once a month in the club, each week you will be given a job that contributes to everyone’s overall improvement as a The English language is very important to Toastmasters and we make sure that you use it to your advantage by using “The Competent Leadership” Manual that was revised in May of 2010.
This means you may have the job of grammarian where you make note of not only poor and incorrect grammar throughout the meeting but you also make note of exemplary use of the English language. You might also have the lovely role of “Ah-Counter” meaning that you count every “um”, “ah”, “you know”, “like”, and “so,” that every member says throughout the entire meeting! It’s a lot like golf with this: you hope for a low score.
You’ll also participate in Table Topics, which is a form of extemporaneous speaking where you will be randomly called on to answer a question from the topic of the week. This requires that you pay full attention to every question so that you can be ready with a response. For example, they may ask, “Tell us about your happiest memory, Lauren.” This teaches you how to think creatively, quickly, and collectively so that you can give a meaningful mini speech in just 1-2 minutes.
While public speaking may sound intimidating, wouldn’t you rather face an unavoidable aspect of life with confidence rather than cowardice? By learning how to give a speech, offer an evaluation, and participate with a weekly role in club meetings, Toastmasters will prepare you for any and every speaking occasion by offering you a positive, welcoming, and fun environment to learn in.
You might be asking yourself, “Why would a join a club that celebrates the one thing that I fear or hate the most?” Here is my answer, as quoted by Les Brown, “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” So live your dream and don’t let speaking in front of an audience stand in your way of that. Let Toastmasters help you live that dream today.