In partnership with Toastmasters

Linda Coyle

Toastmasters is a great source of support for nervous speakers

Toastmasters is a great source of support for people who are nervous speakers. There are many Toastmasters clubs throughout Ireland, and I’ve had the privilege of being in touch with members from several of the Cork branches including, Bandon, West Cork, and Cork.

In this post I wanted to share how I’ve worked with people who are current or potential Toastmasters members.

  1. People who feel too overwhelmed to join toastmasters

Chatting to a president of a local Toastmasters group, she has spoken to numerous people who are so terrified of public speaking that they cannot enter the door of a Toastmasters meeting. Despite her gentle encouragement and reassurance that there would be no pressure to speak at a Toastmasters meeting, they just can’t do it. Given a barrier that feels so insurmountable, people can really benefit from working with a therapist who is trained in addressing speech anxiety…and that’s where I come in! Often the hardest part for people who suffer from speech anxiety, is to step out and get help when they are afraid, as it can feel like a ‘silly’ problem, one that you should just be able to ‘get over.’ Also, the longer speech anxiety goes on, the longer you see yourself as a person who lacks confidence at speaking, and so the harder it is to shift. So, at our initial meeting, I always celebrate the achievement of having got here, as that’s a  really big brave step in the right direction!

  1. Highly experienced and confident Toastmasters members who want to improve their vocal technique.

I have worked with clients who have taken part in numerous competitions and progressed up the levels of the Toastmasters programme. Watching their speeches is very impressive! For these people, a common reason that they come to me is to develop a more engaging voice. Perhaps their voice isn’t projecting well, or it lacks the passion that they clearly have for their topic.

Now while it can be reasonably straightforward to work on, or get help with, improving a speech, working on the voice can be more difficult. People can get a range of feedback about their voices.  They may be told that they need to speak more slowly, or speak from the diaphragm, but the reality is that while much of this advice is well intentioned, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to making lasting changes to the voice without specific support. As an example, see how long you can speak slowly simply by telling yourself to speak slowly! Also, the advice may not be accurate, or it may be missing the core issue, for example, someone holding a lot of tension in their body.

So, what I do is have a look and listen to how someone speaks.  I analyse what’s happening, what helps, and what hinders the person having a free, flexible and powerful voice. From there we start to work on practical things that will enable them to have a voice which conveys their message with the energy and passion that they seek!

 

  1. Toastmaster members who are confident at giving a speech, but are nervous about speaking in other situations.

I recall working with someone earlier this year who delivered the most amazing speech, with passion, clarity and charisma. She had used Toastmasters as tool to get her over her fear of public speaking, and boy had she done well! I sat there wondering why she had decided to come to see me! What emerged was fascinating…while she could stand in front of a large group at a Toastmasters meeting and deliver a presentation, she couldn’t sit at a meeting with colleagues and give an opinion, or answering questions about a presentation.. So, my work with her involved exploring the root of her fear of public speaking. We identified that this had stemmed from an embarrassing speaking situation when she had been a teenager at school. While her Toastmasters skills had equipped her with presenting confidently, this traumatic experience still lived in her body, and so it ‘betrayed her when she needed to speak up in other situations, particularly at work.

We explored this experience, and I helped her to connect with those scared and embarrassed feelings in her body, and by doing this, she was able to work with this part of herself, rather than against it. This empowered her to speak from a place of passion, and not be held back by her fears, so now, not only was she delivering amazing Toastmasters speeches, she was having her opinion heard at work, and surfing a wave of confidence!

 

So, these are three ways I have worked in partnership with Toastmasters. If you fall into any one of these three categories, then get in touch to find out how I can help you.

Contact me

 

 

Feeling judged and how it’s interconnected with fear of public speaking

Linda Coyle

Feeling judged and fear of public speaking

Feeling judged…this is such a common theme that comes up for people who lack confidence in speaking. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I can’t recall a single situation where it has not played some part! Even those who are more confident at speaking in public can still be challenged by this at times, particularly when stepping into a more challenging speaking situation.

Feeling judged and shame about speaking

Feeling judged is very closely linked to shame, and both are powerful feelings, and ones which cannot simply be ignored. In exploring the theme of feeling judged, I find that, like many things, the issue is not clear cut. We can be very effective and confident in some speaking situations and not in others. This can then lead to apparent contradictions within ourselves. Different scenarios I’ve encountered include:

The successful entrepreneur who comes across as confident, but is crippled inside by the thought of needing to speak to at a networking event.

The newly elected golf captain who can effectively negotiate deals at work, but is terrified of giving a speech at the annual captain’s dinner.

The project manager who can really connect with her team, but is passed over at management meetings.

The toastmaster who has won numerous competitions, given amazing, inspiring speeches, but is afraid to give an opinion at meetings.

These contradictions can add to further shame, as we feel that we should be just able to ‘get over it’. However, it’s not as simple as that. The thing is, that those reactions served a purpose in our past, to keep us safe when we needed it, but they no longer serve us well. Because these reactions are so ingrained, I find that it’s practically impossible to think our way out of it…something that many of my clients have tried before they’ve come to me. So what to do about it?

What can we do when we feel judged and shame around speaking

Well, for me, I look at two things, 1) what it feels like in the body, and 2) getting acquainted with my inner critic. In this article I’m honing in on the body piece.

So what do I mean when I say to look at what shame of feeling judged feels like in the body? It’s easy to use words to describe how we feel, but these can be deceptive, as we can simply be thinking in an abstract way about the feeling. What we need to do is get stuck into the physical experience. What does being judged or shame feel like to you? Perhaps it’s a hunching of the shoulders, a tightness in the chest, or a shaky, weak voice. Everyone has different experiences. It is not particularly pleasant to go there with these sensations, but go there we must, if we want to make lasting changes. Rather than make judgements about the feelings of shame, such as “It’s unpleasant,” instead, we can choose to be curious, “I notice a heaviness in the pit of my stomach.”

Allow yourself to feel the fear of speaking

How getting to know feelings help us to speak with confidence

As we get better acquainted with these feelings or sensations which associated with shame or feeling judged, they don’t feel quite so overwhelming. In fact, it reduces the power that they have over us. I liken it to surfing, if you’re fighting the wave, you’re on a losing battle, but if you go with it, it’s a whole lot easier, and fun (even if that does involve falling off the board, as I do quite spectacularly!) So, by allowing these sensations to be there, a transformation can happen. We become more present in ourselves, and more mindful. As a result, we can speak from a place of presence, one which comes across as passionate and confident…whether or not those physical sensations connected to feeling judged are there.

Feel the fear (in your body) and say it anyway

As we get better acquainted with these feelings or sensations, they don’t feel quite so overwhelming, and in fact, it reduces the power that they have over us. I liken it to surfing, if you’re fighting the wave, you’re on a losing battle, but if you go with it, it’s a whole lot easier, and fun (even if that does involve falling off the board, as I do quite spectacularly!) So, by allowing these sensations to be there, a transformation can happen. We become more present in ourselves, and more mindful. As a result, we can speak from a place of presence, one which comes across as passionate and confident…whether or not those physical sensations connected to feeling judged are there.

If that all sounds a bit difficult to apply, and you don’t quite know where to start, then you can access a body awareness audio file that I have on my website. It helps you to get more connected with your body, and only takes 2 minutes to listen to. Simply sign up to my mailing list and you can access that, along with other free resources.

I find it fascinating that by opening the door to our fear of speaking, we can be liberated from it. If you’d like to read more about how to overcome your fear of public speaking, check out Why just calm down is bad advice for nervous speakers.

 

This article was published by me on Linked In on 22nd May 2018.

© [2018] Linda Coyle, Speak Brilliantly. All rights reserved.