How Toastmasters Helped Crush My Fear Of Public Speaking

fear of public speaking

At the National Automobile Dealer’s Association annual convention, I stepped onto the stage as a speaker tossing fistfulls of dollar bills into the air in front of hundreds of business owners and managers and dazzling them with brilliance throughout my hour long presentation.

I knocked it out of the park!

That’s how the dream ended up. But that’s sure not how it started.

It started as a nightmare. And one I think we’ve all had.

You know where you find yourself back college and it’s the day of the final exam in the last class you have to pass to graduate. And you realize that you haven’t studied.

Then you realize that you haven’t even put on pants?

That happened to me, kind of. Except it was in real life.

I had been invited to speak at sales conference for the first time ever and I had worked for months on my presentation. Every word. Every dramatic pause. Every well timed gesture.

I arrived at the conference, crazy nervous, but prepared. Except I wasn’t.

Then I found out my luggage had gotten lost and I spent the entire first day of the conference, including the meet and greet, wandering around in my travelling clothes – Flip flops, shorts and a Charlie Sheen wannabe looking bowling shirt.

Here I was supposed to be the marketing expert, giving advice on million dollar ad budgets, and I didn’t even have on big boy pants.

It felt like a nightmare that just wouldn’t end.

My luggage finally arrived for the second day and when I went on stage I was acceptably attired both from the waist up and the waist down.

Despite the Trousers Debacle, despite the audio visual equipment snafu and despite the horrible realization that I couldn’t read notes and make eye contact with the audience using the same pair of glasses, I went on to give a perfectly mediocre speech.

No one threw rotten vegetables at me and I didn’t throw up. But still just an average speech average, at best. I did not knock it out of the park.

I decided on the plane ride home that when I got back to Nashville, I would officially join the Let’s Talk Franklin Toastmasters group that I had been visiting.

The simple act of going to Toastmasters and actually standing up in front of people every week either delivering a speech from the manual, evaluating, filling a role or getting volunteered for table topics has dramatically changed the way I prepare and perform for those moments when I have to speak.

I no longer seek to memorize every word or gesture and I’m no longer a slave to my notes or my reading glasses. I can stand up in front of any crowd and tell the story I want to tell, not from memory, but from the heart.

Nothing prepares you better than an improved ability to think “on your feet” and speak extemporaneously whether you’re on a stage in front of hundreds or on a sales call with your biggest client.

Dale Carnegie said that 85% of your success will come, not from your technical know how and talent, but instead from your ability to communicate, cooperate and compel others.

And there is nothing on God’s green earth more compelling than a good story well told.

terry-picTerry Lancaster helps salespeople and entrepreneurs create BETTER! lives and build BETTER! businesses, one step at a time, starting right here, starting right now using the science of habit formation, focus and flow. He’s an entrepreneur, a speaker and the #1 Best Selling Author of BETTER! Self Help for The Rest Of Us.