I think more people fear public speaking than death for a couple of reasons:
- Death only happens once.
- You don’t have to look anyone in the eye after death.
For several years now, I have attended weekly Toastmasters meetings at club Broad Ripple 517. I am one of those fortunate souls who doesn’t shake with fear at the thought of public speaking. This isn’t to say I enjoy it, but I feel fairly comfortable in front of an audience. I attend Toastmasters for a few reasons:
- I speak publicly for my job, but sometimes I go a little while in between speaking engagements. Attending a weekly meeting makes sure I stay sharp.
- I really enjoy the other members of our club. They are intelligent, open-minded and a lot of fun to be around.
- I like helping others improve themselves. The evaluation periods of our meetings are a good time to hear and give feedback from others.
Our club is a bit unique. It takes place at 7:00 am but it’s very casual. I know some official Toastmasters officials cringe at the way we run our club, but you know what? It’s our club and we like it! We continue to find others who appreciate our laid-back approach and welcoming atmosphere. Sure, we could do some things better but who couldn’t?
Awful or brilliant?
Today was a pretty typical meeting for us. You’ll either think this sounds awful or brilliant. Anyway, a short rundown on the high points:
Speech 1: A longtime member with both a medical doctorate and law degree gave a speech entitled “Misconceptions about German hyper-inflation in the 1920’s”. Seriously. Not only that, it was fascinating, informative and entertaining.
Speech 2: Road rage! A truly funny take on the dangers of road rage.
Topic speeches with the theme of Finals: These impromptu speeches covered the merits of standardized testing, the difficulties of a ‘Physics for Poets’ class, the importance of treating every meal like it could be your last (hopefully not ice chips and a morphine drip), and thoughtful final words as one’s life draws to a close.
Maybe you think this sounds like a terrible way to spend your free time. I see it as an investment in myself and an opportunity to grow. It’s much easier to stumble and look like an idiot in this small group of friends with no stakes than to do the same thing in front of an audience that matters.
There is a club near you. If the first one you go to doesn’t feel right, try another. Each club has its own culture and personality. Once you find the right one, I assure you it will be a rewarding experience.
TL;DR: Toastmasters is an educational and worthwhile way to work on self-improvement.