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Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking

If you're afraid of speaking in public, or you want to but just don't have the experience, you're not alone. There are organizations and opportunities for you to overcome your fear or gain valuable experience.

Toastmasters

The most popular, most useful organization for public speakers is Toastmasters. It's a great place to learn how to speak in front of groups, organize your speeches, give impromptu speeches, and even learn how to recognize what makes a good speech.

Depending on where you live, there may be one, two, or even dozens of Toastmasters clubs that meet weekly, every other week, or even once a month for 60 minutes per meeting. Each meeting has a set, regular agenda they follow. Members give speeches to earn credit toward certifications like the Certified Toastmaster and Advanced Toastmaster; they give speeches, learn to give feedback on others' speeches, which they present like a regular speech; and, even have the opportunity to compete in local and regional contests.

You can find out more information by visiting the Toastmasters website at www.toastmasters.org. Click the Find a Location Near You link to find a club in your area. Keep in mind that some clubs have membership requirements, like working for the company where the meeting is held. The downside to Toastmasters is that it can be a big time commitment. The upside is that the clubs are filled with some awesome people who really want to learn how to speak in public. You'll be surrounded by friendly people who want to see you succeed. The other upside is that dues are less than $60 per year, payable every six months. It's the least expensive of the other options, but it provides the greatest value.

  • Mailing Address
    Toastmasters International
    P.O. Box 9052
    Mission Viejo, CA 92690-9052
    USA

    Phone: 949-858-8255
    Automated system: 949-835-1300
    Fax: 949-858-1207

Classes at Your Local College or University

Taking college classes is another option for improving speaking ability. Although Toastmasters is an ongoing effort, you can give yourself a deadline by taking a course. You can take basic public speaking and even move into advanced public speaking, if you desire. The downside is that a college class can be pricey compared to Toastmasters. The upside is that you can cram everything you want to learn into a single class that meets once a week, or even a few times a week, for four months, and then you're done.

Seminars and Courses

Several organizations help people learn more effective communication. Whether it's leadership training, team management, or even public speaking, you can take 1-, 2-, or even 3-day courses on these techniques. The upside is that you get everything you need in less than three days. The downside is that they're often more expensive than a college course, and you don't get the same amount of time for practice and feedback that you do in either Toastmasters or college classes. These seminars are great for refreshers or crash courses, but they're not enough to build an entire speaking career. There are thousands of courses and seminars available from national groups whether they're from organizations like National Seminars or Dale Carnegie, or local ones organized by local groups and instructors. A quick Google search will turn up any courses and seminars in your area.

Speakers Associations

There are several organizations for professional speakers, like the National Speakers Association, the American Professional Speakers Association, the World Speakers Association, and even the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. These are geared more toward the advanced or professional speaker, and some may have an income-from-speaking requirement for applicants. Many of these organizations have meetings in larger cities, where members meet and learn how to become better speakers, how to get more speaking engagements, and how to promote their speaking events.

Private or Executive Coaches

We even know a few people who provide executive coaching when it comes to public speaking. These coaches will not only teach you how to speak in public, they'll help you reshape your image, dress for success, learn how to deal with new situations, and give you individually tailored, no-punches-pulled feedback on where you need to improve. The downside is that these coaches can cost a few thousand dollars. The upside is that you get specific feedback, and you learn how to fix your issues from a professional.

We don't recommend this option until you're ready to take your speaking career to that professional level. Make sure you try the easy, least expensive option first, and get some speeches under your belt before you look at a private coach.

To find a private coach, do a quick Google search to find speaking coaches in your area. Ask notable speakers in your area who they use. Ask the potential coach if you can speak to any of their past or present clients to get testimonials.

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