If the thought of public speaking makes you nauseous or weak at the knees, you are in good company.
On some lists of common fears, public speaking even trumps the fear of death.
Warren Buffet, legendary investor and one of the world’s richest men, knew all too well the fear of public speaking. At a fancy dinner hosted in his honor by socialite Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, he became paralyzed by fear. Back then, he was unaccustomed to the ways of the elite, and became increasingly uncomfortable during the formal dinner, eating and drinking very little. Towards the end of the evening, Graham stood and delivered a witty, personally crafted toast to Buffet. The expectation was that he would respond in kind. He recalls the moment, “I didn’t have the nerve to stand up and offer a toast. I blew it. I was so uncomfortable. I even thought I might throw up…”
If only Warren Buffet had been going to Toastmasters, his biography might have read differently. Yet, he did not allow this embarrassing moment to define him. He went on to become a confident and sought-after speaker. His oft-quoted advice to students is, “One of the things to be sure to do, whether you like it or not, is to get comfortable with public speaking.”
During my years in practice, I did some public speaking, but the material was familiar and the audience known. Agreeing to be a presenter for the Texas Medical Association’s Physician Health and Rehabilitation Committee put the fear in me, and sent me running to find a Toastmasters group.
When I talk to people about my experience in Toastmasters, they look interested until I suggest attending a meeting. Then everything gets real quiet, they look away, and the conversation abruptly shifts. All of a sudden there is no time available for the next decade.
Whether you want to polish a wedding toast, have more confidence during presentations, or develop greater leadership skills, Toastmasters is a fun, proven, and highly supportive program.
Toastmasters in a nutshell:
- Most cities have a number of clubs, which offers a choice in style, location and meeting times.
- Weekly attendance, while helpful, is not mandatory. You can attend as your schedule permits.
- Each meeting provides a variety of opportunities to practice speaking and leadership skills.
- New members start with short 5-7 minute speeches. You proceed at your own pace.
- The environment is supportive and encouraging.
- Membership dues are less than $50 per year.
I initially heard about the organization from my older brother, but didn’t join, telling myself it would be a stuffy, intimidating group. I was dead wrong.
Toastmasters has become one of the highlights of my week. There’s always good humor, genuine support and excellent learning. A true camaraderie grows out of the shared experience of facing fears, taking risks and helping others grow in ability and confidence.
To find out more about Toastmasters and locate clubs in your area, you can go to the official Toastmasters site.
If you are thinking about transitioning to a non-clinical career, considering a leadership position, or simply want to improve your speaking skills, enrolling in Toastmasters, will be well worth your time. I highly recommend getting started before you have a compelling reason. Run, don’t walk.