Fear of Public Speaking? Try Toastmasters

Has the fear of public speaking ever kept you from saying something at an important event, like a friend’s wedding or a family member’s funeral? How about just a social gathering?

If so, I invite you to check out Toastmasters.

Toastmasters is a club where people improve their communications skills and overcome the fear of public speaking and do so in a fun and supportive environment. You will make lifelong friendships and share fun stories with each other.

Until I joined Toastmasters, speaking in public had always been my greatest fear in life.

My third grade teacher asked me to come to the front of the room to do an oral book report. When I turned to face my classmates, my brain froze and I couldn’t remember a single thing that I wanted to say. I was really embarrassed and, well, you know how kids can be. That is where my fear started. In 2009 a friend asked to be the best man at his wedding. And before I realized that one of my duties would be to give a speech, the best man’s toast, I had already said yes.

I’ll spare you the painful details, but it came off as badly as you might imagine. I decided it was finally time to face my fear and join Toastmasters.

Deep down, I always believed a brain defect might be causing my brain to freeze. But when I joined Toastmasters, I discovered that a survival mechanism known as “Fight or Flight” was actually the cause.

Let me explain. If you suddenly found yourself in the wild, facing a hungry lion, your brain would shut down all non-essential brain activity not directly related to your survival. When you are running from a lion, you don’t need your memory! You just run! For some of us, public speaking generates the same level of fear as facing a lion. It’s that level of anxiety that causes our brains to freeze.

In Toastmasters, we learn to manage fear through practice and repetition. And as we become more confident and competent, our Fight or Flight response doesn’t kick in, because our fear level remains low. Then we can confidently stand in front of an audience and remember everything we wanted to say.

My father passed away several years ago, and due to the confidence I had gained in Toastmasters, I was able to confidently speak at his funeral and say everything I wanted to say without using notes. This was a pivotal moment for me.

Toastmasters can help you prepare so that when opportunities arise, you’ll be ready.

Talkotillo Toastmasters club meets at the Phoenix Room at Cottonwood Country Club in Sun Lakes every Tuesday night from 6:30 to 8 p.m., starting Dec. 6. It is free to visit, and if you decide to join, you will be happy to know it is a very low cost. Bring a friend!

For more information, please call Leslie Hammond at 480-600-0541.