Overcome Your Fear Of Public Speaking with Toastmasters
Learn Leadership and Communication Skills in a Positive Environment
There is no better and more cost effective way to learn public speaking than Toastmasters. Established in 1924, TM has expanded to thousands of individual groups across over one hundred countries. Clubs are formed by individuals who have a passion for public speaking and leadership, and while they all follow the same program there are real differences in organization, style, and demographics. Aside from just learning to be a better public speaker, a crucial aspect of deciding on a good Toastmasters club is the people involved. Some are purely corporate and invitation only. Others are for college students, or for particular professions such as teaching. Finding the right club (or clubS, for more hardcore members) depends on a number of factors.
Practical Concerns - Schedule, Location, and More
Those interested in Toastmasters can find a search function on the official website. This allows you to find nearby groups, and when they meet, with ease. Schedule and location are by far the biggest concerns when getting into Toastmasters. There are groups that meet at any time imaginable, from early in the morning before work, to evening clubs, to lunchtime corporate clubs. The TM website also has a handy map feature that helps you find meeting locations without a problem, as well as sections where clubs can fill in their contact info - so you can contact their President or Vice President of Public Relations with any questions.
What Are the Members Like?
While Toastmasters has a variety of members from all different backgrounds - anyone from CEOs, to bankers, to ESL teachers participate in meetings - it’s also a reality of life that people tend to prefer others who are similar to them. TM is not too much different in that regard. When I visited many different Toastmasters groups as a guest, I could easily see this. College clubs are obviously going to have more younger people. Evening groups in financial districts are probably going to draw a more business minded crowd. Finding a group of people you are comfortable with is an important part of deciding where to participate. With a group you feel at ease with, other aspects of conquering your fear of public speaking will be that much easier. You'll be able to focus on improving things like your body language and presentation skills without any real social concerns.
Is it an Advanced Toastmasters? Do They Focus on a Particular Skill?
While most Toastmasters clubs follow the same template, a few have significant variations. The most common example is the Advanced Club - which usually does not allow members to participate unless they’ve completed their Competent Communication manual. Others may involve certain professions. I’ve heard of clubs dedicated to foreign journalists in Tokyo, as well as for English teachers in South Korea who want to use public speaking to sharpen their teaching skills. For those who want to go beyond the basics of public speaking - such as body language and visual aids - these clubs can be a great option. Besides more advanced and technical skills, clubs may offer other unique selling points. One I participated in before was a morning club that took place in a coffee shop, for example. Dinner clubs, or clubs taking place at bars are also not unheard of.
What Language is it In?
While most Toastmasters clubs are in English, there are some - particular those not based in the United States - which are bilingual or are in other foreign languages entirely. Most clubs in Japan, for example, tend to be Japanese English bilingual Toastmasters. However there are some multilingual clubs in the US as well - such as some Spanish clubs, and at least one Japanese club in the San Francisco area. If you’re participating in Toastmasters as an expat in another country, it can be an excellent way to make friends - though some locals tend to treat it as an English class rather than a way to improve public speaking. Still if you can find a non-English club it can be a great way to practice a language - as long as you’re interested in public speaking as well.
Like anything else in life, deciding on the right Toastmasters club for you depends on a number of factors. Not only do you have to overcome your fear of public speaking, you also have to make sure that you’re in a group of people you feel comfortable with, at a location and time that’s right for you. With some knowledge of how Toastmasters works and how you can use the official website’s search function, finding the right group is an easy task.
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