1. Thursdays become the most inspiring day of the week
Every Toastmasters evening has a theme. As I’m writing this, the theme for the next meeting is ‘What it means to be human’. Basically, members stand up at the beginning of the night and introduce themselves along with a brief answer to a question that relates to the theme (don’t sweat, this is optional for guests).
I’m often amazed at the optimism and breadth of experience in the room, and the different anecdotes that come from such a simple question.
By the end of the evening, I always leave feeling uplifted and energised. I used to write down how I felt after each meeting to make me go to the next one. The only downside is that all the adrenaline and excitement can make it difficult to fall asleep!
2. Work meetings get a whole lot easier
I’ve always been okay with work meetings. But one unintended consequence of going to Toastmasters is that I’ve become really good at them.
Practising leadership roles and being asked to speak on the spot tend to transfer over into the workplace.
It’s now much easier for me to organise my thoughts and get to the point when asked for input.
I hesitate to put a figure to it, but I’m sure it’s made a difference to my business.
3. You’re reminded that it’s alright to fail
Table Topics is a part of the evening when anyone can have a go. I remember feeling certain that I could never bring myself to do one. Then another member told me that it’s a rite of passage to ‘crash and burn’ at a Table Topic and that gave me enough encouragement to give it a go.
The first time, I spoke for around 30 seconds before taking my seat. The next time, I made it to 45 seconds, and so on.
The short length and lack of structure make Table Topics ideal for getting a feel for being in front of an audience without committing to doing a full speech.
They’re also useful for more experienced members to observe how they respond to pressure and to remind us all that it’s alright when things don’t go to plan.
4. You’ll meet friends without trying
I never considered the possibility of making friends when I signed up. I was here to get over a fear of speaking, not necessarily to meet new people. However, you learn a lot about someone when you listen to them talk in front of the group.
Everyone is so friendly and supportive that it’s easy to make new friends. The membership is also less transient than I expected. Many of the speakers have been with us for years.
New members can benefit from their experience by having them as a mentor.
As well as helping you to grow as a speaker, these relationships are often rewarding in their own right.
5. You find out what kind of speaker you are
I used to think public speaking was about business presentations and TED Talks. I couldn’t imagine any other reason why I would want to get up in front of people of my own free will. Well, it turns out that public speaking is not as bad as I first thought, and it’s also far more varied.
Even in our club, I’ve seen stand-up comics, motivational speakers, natural storytellers, business speakers, poets, theatrical performances and inspirational speakers. I’ve heard speeches that made me laugh, others that made me think, and some that were incredibly moving.
For me, speaking is about learning to become more of who you already are. It’s about looking inside and saying what you think and feel. At its best, public speaking should feel like you are talking to one person even if you’re in front of 100.
And in answer to the original question…
‘How long does it take to overcome the fear?’
No matter how experienced they are, almost everyone still experiences nerves. However, there are techniques for reducing anxiety and managing nervous energy. The strangest realisation for me was that we can never know how someone is feeling inside when they’re on stage. If you’re afraid of public speaking, there’s a good chance that it doesn’t show (or at least, not in the way you imagine).
In the words of one of our past club presidents (who generously shared his advice when I was a still guest): The butterflies never go away. But in time you can train them to fly in formation.
Joining Norwich Speakers Speakers Club has many benefits including personal development. Seth Rowden from Norwich Speakers Club shares this article and it's well worth a read!
If you’re thinking about attending your first meeting at Norwich Speakers Club, good for you! Learning how to speak in public can be a highly rewarding experience. In terms of personal growth, it’s hands down one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Before becoming a member, I thought Toastmasters was only for people with a fear of public speaking – and that’s the exact reason I joined.
I didn’t even want to be a good speaker. I just wanted to be able to stand in front of an audience without having a panic attack and going bright red in the face. The bar was low. The question in my head when I signed up was, ‘How long does it take to overcome the fear?’ I’ve now been part of Toastmasters for two years, and new members often ask me this same question.
So, I’ll share the answer along with some of the other unexpected benefits that I’ve discovered along the way