How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
Have you ever stood in front of a group of people, ready to share your thoughts or give a presentation… and froze? Felt your palms sweaty, heart racing, brain foggy?
If so, you're totally “normal.” Public speaking is one of the most common fears shared by people around the world. While some of us experience a debilitating fear, others have minor discomfort speaking in front of a group. Among all levels though, fear of public speaking is distracting and holds people back from pursuing and reaching their fullest potential.
WHY PUBLIC SPEAKING IS IMPORTANT
Many people who experience fear of public speaking have a simple “solution”: avoid it! While that may be feasible in some cases, most people will find themselves in situations requiring public speaking at some point in the future—whether that’s for professional purposes (a work presentation) or personal reasons (giving a toast at a wedding).
Public speaking (in the sense of formal presentations in front of a large audience) is sometimes mistakenly considered a rare activity, reserved only for leadership, politicians, and motivational speakers. Some people feel that after getting through their public speaking class in college they’ll never have to do it again.
But communicating your ideas clearly and effectively is important in any field, at any level. Even if you don’t envision yourself giving a TED Talk in the near future, chances are you’ll rely on your communication skills for a job interview, presentation to your boss, networking conversation, or even asking someone out on a date. Effective communication and comfort speaking in front of groups is applicable to a wide range of situations in almost any career, and can also significantly contribute to improved self-esteem and confidence.
Because of this, we believe that strong public speaking skills are some of the best skills to grow for both personal and professional development.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR PUBLIC SPEAKING: WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS
There are pages upon pages of useful and valid advice on how to be a better or more relaxed speaker; how to ace a job interview; how to improve your confidence in social conversation. But despite how true this advice is, it’s typically missing the most important element: we learn and improve through practice. While some skills can be easily learned about by studying theory, comfortable and effective communication is learned through experiential practice.
Toastmasters: improve your speaking skills & comfort
You may have heard of Toastmasters, a professional organization dedicated to public speaking. It’s sometimes referred to as “like AA for people who are afraid of public speaking” and that’s not too far from the truth!
Toastmasters International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. The organization oversees 16,000 clubs in 143 countries, though each local chapter is more or less self-governed by its leaders and members—real-life community members who regularly come together to practice speeches, give and receive feedback, and hone their speaking skills.
Toastmasters is structured entirely around experiential learning. Members work through a comprehensive communication program at their own pace and comfort level, growing and improving through honest and supportive peer feedback each step of the way. The experiential program emphasizes both prepared speeches and impromptu speaking—different skills that we need in different situations.
Meetings are typically held weekly or bi-weekly for one to two hours and are structured to give all attendees meaningful opportunities to practice their speaking skills and learn from their peers. Each club has a unique setting and character—some meet in corporate conference rooms and maintain business formality, while others meet in churches or community centers and have a lighthearted sense of friendship and community.
Toastmasters is truly one of the most affordable investments in your personal and professional development: membership dues are $45 every six months (some clubs charge additional fees to cover meeting expenses).
Toastmasters Club Mission
We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.
Find your club
Find a club near you by searching Toastmaster International’s database here. We recommend visiting a couple different clubs in your area to get a sense of which group and environment best meets your needs. Guests are more than welcome to attend meetings at no cost (contact the club first), but membership is required to follow the Toastmasters programs.
FOUR WELLNESS TIP
Ready to conquer your fear of public speaking? Find your local Toastmasters club and schedule your first meeting.
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