The fear of public speaking is Glossophobia. Quite a fancy name for fear… isn’t it.
It is believed that Glossophobia affects 75% of the world population. That means a majority of people across the world would rather die than come up on stage and speak to a room full of people.
The characterstics of glossophobia is buckled knees, sweaty palms, quivering voice and sometimes even nausea. You will come across 1000s of books and websites that will advise you on how you can overcome this fear of public speaking. And all of these resources will state that, “Practice makes perfect”. That is if you practice giving speeches, you will gradually overcome our fear and will perfect the art of public speaking. Now, reality is that we need the right tools, the right environment and the right kind of mentors to help us practice this perfection.
And, this is where Toastmasters comes into picture.
So, what is Toastmasters.
Toastmasters is a non-profit educational organization that empowers people to become effective communicators and leaders. In Toastmasters you are not just learning about speaking but also acquiring the art of listening and organizing your thoughts.
Toastmasters was established in the year 1924 by Ralph Smedley, who was the Education Director of YMCA (Young men’s Christian Association). Mr. Smedley found that the men in his community needed guidance to improve their public speaking skill, to hold meetings and to strengthen their leadership qualities. And so he organized a club where these men felt safe to practice and learn these skills. This organization was termed “Toastmaster”.
From that one small club meeting, today toastmasters International has over 358,000
members worldwide with Over 16,800 clubs in 143 countries.
That’s a huge organization.
You might wonder. Yup, its huge… but what’s in it for me? Why Toastmasters?
One of the biggest reasons to join toastmasters is that it reduces fear and boosts yourself confidence. When you attend meetings you are continuously learning and practicing and pushing yourself. You are rediscovering your abilities, and you practice in the club, where the members are like your family, who will encourage you, motivate you and push you to achieve the impossible. This boosts your confidence.
When I joined toastmasters, I wasn’t sure of myself. I considered myself to be an Introvert. But, giving that first ice breaker speech, the first speech of my life in Toastmasters sure did wonders. While I was on stage and was delivering my speech, I thought to myself, never again. I thought I did really bad and decided that, this will be my first and last speech. But when I finished my speech and stepped down from the stage, my fellow members, my mentors and my evaluators all praised and applauded me and encouraged me to do better. And so, within a few months I gave my 2ndspeech, then my 3rd and then there was nothing stopping me. Today, I won’t say I don’t get nervous but the confidence that I have developed is far greater from those little butterflies that fly around in my tummy.
The 2nd reason why you should join Toastmasters is without doubt, to improve your communication skills. We must first understand what communication is.
Communication is not only about speaking in front of an audience. It is about listening, about presenting yourself, your stage presence, your gestures, body language, facial expressions, voice modulation and also the pauses in your speech. Yes, that’s right. When you give your speech you must learn when and where to pause, so that your message can sink in. Also, since almost all speeches are timed, somewhere between 5 to 7 mins, it is crucial that you pass your message in less words.
You also get to learn to speak with your body. How not to speak with your hands in your pocket or behind your back? How to dress well and be presentable? As most Club meetings, have a formal dress code.
Next reason to join, is to sharpen your leadership abilities. Whether you are a CEO of a major company or an intern, leadership skills will definitely boost your career. Toastmasters provides you the platform to take up leadership roles in every level. It provides you the opportunity to lead confidently and fearlessly. It also helps you recognize your leadership qualities and gives you plenty of opportunities to lead a team within the club level. This gives you the confidence to use the skill that you have learnt in the club and apply it to your professional life.
So, what’s the education program that Toastmasters provides?
Toastmasters follows the new pathways learning experience. Pathways education program provides its members with one free path to start. In total the education program has 10 paths which you choose according to the goals you want to achieve. When you log onto the pathways programme you will be initially taken to the base camp where you will take an assessment to better understand your goals. Based on your assessment you will be recommended 3 paths to choose from. You can work on these paths either online or you can request the print version for a small fee.
With the benefits that Toastmasters provide I surely feel that this organization definitely helps in creating a new and confident YOU.