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  1. #1
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Default Toastmasters (and social anxiety)

    Thinking about trying it and wondering if anyone here has had positive or negative experiences. Particularly interested in people with social anxiety but all input welcome.

    I've only ever heard good things, I'm a little scared though because I know for sure I would hate the experience, even if it is good for me.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    Some relevant things in my case:

    -my social anxiety doesn't prevent me from doing things I deem very important, but it does push me away from doing some things. I will avoid talking to strangers or making phone calls if I can at all help it, even if it hurts me. maybe a lot of people wouldn't guess I'm anxious, they'd just think I'm quiet, but I'm very uncomfortable a lot of the time. anyway.

    -my future job will most likely require me to do a reasonable amount of presentations/seminars, depending what specific area I end up in, but there are some career options where I can avoid it - and I will probably try to avoid public speaking as much as humanly possible, even if I do get better at it. But I think it would be a big asset for my career if I was better at them.

    -I don't enjoy giving presentations but now I'm at the point where I think my nervousness level is "normal" or perhaps slightly higher than normal, but not crippling anymore (YAY!)

    -My presentation skills are average or perhaps even slightly above average, but not particularly riveting (but vastly improved from earlier, now I can hide much of my nervousness) but this only applies to practiced, prepared presentations with good slides. I'm very very bad at improvising and talking on the fly and when I try to use humour or emotion in a speech it feels fake and prepared (well mostly because it is! lol)

    -I hate and try to avoid being the centre of attention, even when I have something I want to say. I'm afraid of asking "stupid questions", even if people claim there aren't any, there are.

    -I have very poor verbal communication skills, I stumble over my words and forget my main point and can't think of the right words and use imperfect grammar, even when I'm not nervous (but especially when I am) (though my written skills are excellent, not that you might guess from here, lol) this is probably the weakness that bothers me the most, I wish I could express myself on-the-spot at least as well as the average person!

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Also not sure if the price (120$/year) is worth it or if I can pick up a lot of the skills elsewhere (I've improved and learned a tremendous amount this past year, for example, with practice, and I intend to continue volunteering in the fall to give science presentations to high-school and elementary kids, which should help more).

    Any thoughts and/or experience (and/or advice)?
    -end of thread-

  2. #2
    Seriously Delirious Udog's Avatar
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    I've been a member for quite some time, and it's helped me quite a bit. I consider public speaking to be like going to the gym and lifting weights. In real life, you rarely are required to squat or bench press heavy weights, but that type of training can help with every activity you do, including your overall health. I've found that as I've become more relaxed and skilled at speaking in front of a group of people, one on one (or even group) conversations are much more enjoyable than they used to be.

    Every club has its own atmosphere, so you'll want to visit several different clubs as a guest, if that's possible. Also, some clubs are better run than others, and some are more expensive than others. (Mine is ~$100 the first year, because there are some new member fees, and $66 each year after that.)

    Toastmasters gives you a manual with 10 speeches, and each speech focuses on a new skill while you get to pick whatever topic you want. The first speech is just getting in front of the audience and talking about yourself, the second speech talks about organization, and it goes on to topics like Vocal Variety, Body Language, Props, and Persuasive speeches.

    Also, there are "Table Topics" that help with learning improvisation skills.

    Also, the only thing dumber than a stupid question is not asking it, so you remain ignorant.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Sparrow's Avatar
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    Glad you posted this! I actually picked up a Pamphlet last night at my works lobby .
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  4. #4
    Order Now! pure_mercury's Avatar
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    Toastmasters is one of the clubs with which I plan to be involved while I am in grad school.
    Who wants to try a bottle of merc's "Extroversion Olive Oil?"

  5. #5
    Diabolical Kasper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randomnity View Post
    I've only ever heard good things, I'm a little scared though because I know for sure I would hate the experience, even if it is good for me.
    Get rid of that thinking, if you go in with a negative attitude you will sabotage yourself.


    Quote Originally Posted by Randomnity View Post
    -my future job will most likely require me to do a reasonable amount of presentations/seminars, depending what specific area I end up in, but there are some career options where I can avoid it - and I will probably try to avoid public speaking as much as humanly possible, even if I do get better at it. But I think it would be a big asset for my career if I was better at them.
    Then you need to have skills in this area. You can do it on your own and maybe get better, or you can use someone else's experience and expertise and receive critic on how you are read by others in a supportive environment, which will force you to get better.


    Quote Originally Posted by Randomnity View Post
    -I don't enjoy giving presentations but now I'm at the point where I think my nervousness level is "normal" or perhaps slightly higher than normal, but not crippling anymore (YAY!)
    Excellent. Then you can see that the more you do something the easier it becomes. Why not do it in an environment where there are no consequences if you mess up?


    Quote Originally Posted by Randomnity View Post
    -My presentation skills are average or perhaps even slightly above average, but not particularly riveting (but vastly improved from earlier, now I can hide much of my nervousness) but this only applies to practiced, prepared presentations with good slides. I'm very very bad at improvising and talking on the fly and when I try to use humour or emotion in a speech it feels fake and prepared (well mostly because it is! lol)
    Public speaking is a skill, impromptu public speaking is also skill, just harder.


    Quote Originally Posted by Randomnity View Post
    Also not sure if the price (120$/year) is worth it or if I can pick up a lot of the skills elsewhere.
    DO IT!

    Seriously, for all the reasons you mentioned it is a clear answer, as Udog said remember that not all clubs are equal, the people make them so when you look at going along to a session (before you join) go to several different clubs (as many as are convenient in your area) and get a feel for them, pick a club based on the quality of speakers, if you aren't impressed by the longer term members speaking skills then they will have limited skills to teach you. All clubs should allow visitors.

    I've done a speachcraft course before which is through Toastmasters and the experience is good, public speaking is very simply a skill, nothing more. It can be learnt.

    I'm doing a non-toastmasters course atm that includes public speaking, my first session I was totally nervous, my second session all the training kicked in and have no anxiety before I get up to speak because of the skills that I've gained.

    If you want to look at gaining some skills before joining a club get Dale Carnegie's book The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking, it's written in a straight forward style with great tips, of course nothing beats real life experience with critical feedback.

  6. #6
    Honor Thy Inferior Such Irony's Avatar
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    I agree with the others who've responded thus far. I used to be in Toastmasters and found it very helpful. It was well worth the price although I paid alot less than $120 a year. I think it was around $48 a year? That was a few years ago, so maybe they've jacked up the price since then?

    In particular, I found table topics helpful, because that's my weakness, being asked to speak on the spot.

    I'm actually pretty good at giving speeches when I've had time to prepare. I have no problem with the content aspect. I did have to learn how to make better eye contact and be more emotionally expressive, both of which Toastmasters was very helpful for.

    I actually participated in a couple of speech contests. I didn't win but it was a good learning experience.

    I was also club secretary one year and vice president another year. I got experience with being a leadership position. Resume enhancer!

    I progressed through Competent Leader and Advanced Toastmaster Bronze. More resume enhancers!
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