Public speaking is people’s number one fear…#2 is death…as Comedian Jerry Seinfeld put it: “That means you’d rather be laying in the casket at a funeral than giving the eulogy.”
I’ve had a couple of smart friends recommend that I check out Toastmasters as a tool to sharpen my public speaking saw for a few years now…so I finally took the plunge.
I highly recommend that you try it out — you can find one of 12,000 Toastmasters locations in 130 countries. Toastmasters International is a non-profit (though they do charge you if you want to be a member) that began in Santa Ana, California in 1924.
I picked a Toastmasters club in San Francisco (there were a dozen to choose from!)…coincidentally, one of them was located in a building I used to work.
You don’t need to pay anything to check it out. You can be a free guest for as long as you want which allows you to both observe others giving speeches and also give your own short speeches (I’ll explain what guests do in a moment).
If you’d like to become a member (which means you’ll receive some curriculum and the opportunity to do longer speeches (and get feedback on them), the Toastmasters dues are $20 one-time and then $27 every six months.
Yes, though it’s a short one. At your first meeting, you are asked to stand up and introduce yourself and how you came about choosing Toastmasters. You will also have the option to do a Toastmasters table topics speech at your first meeting.
A Toastmasters member at each meeting will give guests a random topic or theme for a speech (called a table-topic) and the guest is asked if he or she would like to speak about that topic right there on the spot (without preparation) for a couple of minutes. Table-topic speeches are designed to help you think on your feet — my first table-topic was a college graduation commencement speech.
What are the different Toastmaster parts/roles that people play?
Note: Every single person in attendance at a Toastmasters meeting is asked to speak (you may decline) and every person is there to learn (there are no Toastmasters employees in attendance!).
How frequently do Toastmasters meetings take place and how long are they?
Toastmasters meetings are typically weekly for one hour. But you’re under no obligation to attend every one (I attended my first three over a two-month period (because I was traveling).
Toastmasters provides two good top 10 lists for public speakingj. Here they are:
10 Tips for Better Public Speaking
1. Know your material. Pick a topic you are interested in. Know more about it than you include in your speech. Use humor, personal stories and conversational language – that way you won’t easily forget what to say.
2. Practice. Practice. Practice! Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using. Revise as necessary. Work to control filler words; Practice, pause and breathe. Practice with a timer and allow time for the unexpected.
3. Know the audience. Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.
4. Know the room. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
5. Relax. Begin by addressing the audience. It buys you time and calms your nerves. Pause, smile and count to three before saying anything. (“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Pause. Begin.) Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.
6. Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualize the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.
7. Realize that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They’re rooting for you.
8. Don’t apologize for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.
9. Concentrate on the message – not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.
10. Gain experience. Mainly, your speech should represent you – as an authority and as a person. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. A Toastmasters club can provide the experience you need in a safe and friendly environment.
Top 10 Public Speaking Mistakes
I hope you try Toastmasters out — I’d be surprised if you didn’t find it a super-positive experience.