By: Revanche

Toastmasters: shaking in my boots just thinking about it

May 11, 2008

Does anyone else turn stupid when they get nervous? Boy, I sure do. Specifically, I still get really nervous, and stupid, whenever I’m faced with speaking to more than one person at a time, or when I feel intellectually outclassed. It’s not 100% of the time, but it’s still a high enough frequency that if it hasn’t already, it’s going reflect quite poorly on my true abilities.

In light of my revelations about the workplace and deciding to address my weaknesses like my poor political skills, I’ve got to admit that my fear of public speaking continues to plague me, and
exacerbates otherwise manageable insecurities. If I weren’t so nervous about the act of speaking, I would be able to organize my thoughts and respond quickly and coherently. I find myself thinking of the right answers hours later, and obviously that’s much too late. There was a time that I was quicker on my feet, and I’m fairly certain that it corresponded with a higher degree of self confidence and strong morale. Since I can’t do more on the morale front at this very moment, it’s time to address and eradicate the nervousness from my life. It’s fine to be nervous when I don’t know my stuff, however, more frequently, I do but allow the nervousness to block that out. I need to build my self confidence, and that’s only going to happen if I overcome this limitation.

*deep breath* The more nervous I am about this decision, the more I know it’s the right thing to do. I need to join an organization that will help me learn how to speak in a public forum with grace, confidence and intelligence. I need to face this demon square on, because avoiding it or pretending that I’ll overcome it with age, and alone, will not work. I’m 25, and it’s time to learn how what some kids in first grade can do: present myself without fear. As Plonkee said, it might be harder to learn things as an adult, but it’s well worth the effort.

Since I don’t know anyone currently in Toastmasters or who has been in the organization, I don’t know if that’s exactly what I need, but it seems like a good place to start.

If anyone has other suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

7 Responses to “Toastmasters: shaking in my boots just thinking about it”

  1. E.C. says:

    Back before my dad got off of the management track, his company sent him to a Dale Carnegie course. From what he described, it taught pretty much what you are hoping to learn. No idea about cost, however. You might try perusing a couple of the books to see if they look helpful.

  2. plonkee says:

    Remember that it’s easier than you think.

    I’ve found that as a general rule, other people aren’t as knowledgeable as you think they’re going to be. And, normally the ones that do know stuff can be quite constructive.

    The other thing that I say to myself is “you are not your code”. Whatever it is that you are presenting about isn’t related to your actual worth.

  3. Matt says:

    I’ve been hearing pretty good things about Toastmasters though I personally don’t know anyone who’s a member/participant. I’d love to hear about your experiences if you do start going.

    I go a little stupid from time to time speaking to groups of people. I find that I’m ok till about 10 people then I start to break down a bit. I have been thinking about looking into toastmasters a bit more myself. Being able to speak well publicly is a great asset if you happen to have the skill.

  4. ~e.c.~ I was considering reading up a bit more, but this is one of those things that I’m using books to avoid. I need to get out and actually *talk* to people. And not be scared to do it.

    ~plonkee~
    That’ll be my mantra 🙂

    It’s not just a professional problem, though I see the detrimental effects of it there more clearly. The problem stems primarily from a personal shyness compounded by a sense of inadequacy. My logic is that if I build up my confidence in my professional work again, then it’ll be easier to work through my irrational shyness.

    Deep down, I’m just scared of people looking at me and hearing what I say! And then I get stupid, which makes it worse when I beat myself up about it later. Isn’t that silly?

    ~matt~ I’ll be sure to blog about it, for your entertainment if not edification 🙂

    Faking it only worked for a while, it’s time for some formal training.

  5. Ms. Miniducky:

    I highly recommend Toastmasters and encourage you to jump into it wholeheartedly.

    It is simply the best way to conquer your fears of public speaking and improve your speaking skills.

    Re: Dale Carnegie courses
    These courses are good quality too, but suffer from the fact that they are short-term in nature. (Generally, several intensive sessions over a series of days or weeks.) The week-in, week-out routine provided by Toastmasters gives you what you need most — the opportunity to speak every week over the long term. That’s the secret.

    “Table topics” is one specific aspect of Toastmasters which will help you frame your thoughts and deliver a coherent response in spontaneous situations that you write about above.

    I have previously written about the career benefits of public speaking skills. In short, better presentation skills are exactly what you need to climb the corporate ladder.

    Good luck on your adventure in Toastmasters.

  6. ~andrew~ Thanks for the link, and the encouragement. I’m still working up the courage to make contact with the local clubs, we have so many at different levels, but I’d really like to conquer my fear of speaking.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’d love to hear whether you think this experience helped you overcome your fears and contributed to your personal development in hindsight, several years later. Would you recommend it to others afflicted with complete fear of public speaking?

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