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.
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!
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!
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