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Old 02-26-2010, 02:17 PM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Default Toastmasters

There are Toastmasters clubs around the world where members meet to improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills.

More Info: http://www.toastmasters.org/


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Old 02-26-2010, 02:21 PM   #2 (permalink)
 
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Default A pro-active way to expose yourself to public speaking

Social Anxiety Background
Social anxiety has affected me since I was in elementary school. While it was triggered initially by a traumatic experience, it is something that runs in the family and I certainly had a predisposition for. Some examples of how it manifested itself over the years: avoiding certain types of social situations and friends, avoiding public speaking, avoiding the opposite sex completely, hiding in the library during lunch, the thought of just walking down certain hallways at my highschool terrified me, fear of being around large groups of people, fear and avoidance of going to parties or social gatherings, etc. My social anxiety started to get severe when I dropped out of college after one quarter because of my social anxiety. That's when I started to get uncomfortable just leaving my apartment and hit "the bottom" so to speak. Through treatment with group cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming (EMDR) for mild Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and medication I've been able to live the balanced life that I value and form healthy friendships and relationships.

Other Treatments
CBT group for social anxiety, where we would do public speaking exercises, among many other exercises to challenge our feelings of anxiety. While much more challenging anxiety wise, I think Improv lessons are probably a better experience for someone with social anxiety (see my treatment experience on Improv) as you learn that making mistakes or failing is OK and there isn't any preparation involved.

Treatment Experience
I want to start off by saying I don't think Toastmasters would be beneficial for anyone with social anxiety UNTIL they have gone through some treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and a CBT group as well. I am a member of Toastmasters club currently. I've been a member for about six months, having given three speeches and served in a variety of the roles at meetings, including the leading role of Toastmaster.I have mixed feelings about Toastmasters.On one hand it is a great behavioral exercise to confront a fear of public speaking and learn that it's not so bad. I found a club that's very eclectic and supportive, with people varying in age from 19 to 60. I encourage you to keep trying clubs until you find one you are comfortable with. I went to three other clubs before I found the one I am currently a member of. Some clubs may be full of business lawyers, which may or may not be right for you. So what don't I like about Toastmasters. I have somewhat of a problem with perfectionism, which I understand is common for people with social anixety. Toastmasters allows you to feed that perfectionism. There are various small roles in a Toastmasters meeting as well as larger roles and speech roles. I've consistenly found myself having to do a "perfect" job in whatever role I'm in. For example, if I'm the Jokemaster, I have to find the perfect joke or if I'm a speaker, I have to memorize an amazing 8 minute speech and literally go up and give it without even bringing up notes. I find myself dedicated too much time to Toastmasters, which ultimately isn't that important in the scheme of things. Don't use what I'm saying as a justification for not trying Toastmasters. I think it's something very beneficial for anyone working to not let their social anxiety control their life, but keep in mind what I said and don't feel that you have to be perfect. No ones perfect!
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Old 08-27-2010, 11:09 AM   #3 (permalink)
 
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I plan on joining a group soon. I have visited once or twice before and it seems like it would be fun. Once I have done some CBT and learned some coping techniques, that is!
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Old 08-27-2010, 08:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
 
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I have been a toastmaster for 3 years. I have overcome most of my SA. I don't think I have SA any more. As Drew pointed out, SA makes you want to be perfectionist. You will project that perfectionism at Toastmasters. You will get frustrated and then quit and your SA has won.

Most toastmasters have some form of SA. Most of them may not admit to it. When preparing your speeches, just talk about something you know. One toastmaster gave a speech on her battle with SA. Here is a chance to practice exposure therapy.

After 3 years of toastmasters, I rarely have maladaptive thoughts.

If you have any questions about toastmasters, please post in this forum. Also, most toastmaster clubs have mentors to work with newbies.
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Old 09-12-2010, 06:33 PM   #5 (permalink)
 
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Originally Posted by tomcoldaba View Post
I have been a toastmaster for 3 years. I have overcome most of my SA. I don't think I have SA any more. As Drew pointed out, SA makes you want to be perfectionist. You will project that perfectionism at Toastmasters. You will get frustrated and then quit and your SA has won.

Most toastmasters have some form of SA. Most of them may not admit to it. When preparing your speeches, just talk about something you know. One toastmaster gave a speech on her battle with SA. Here is a chance to practice exposure therapy.

After 3 years of toastmasters, I rarely have maladaptive thoughts.

If you have any questions about toastmasters, please post in this forum. Also, most toastmaster clubs have mentors to work with newbies.
Awesome! I'm really considering doing this now that I live in a city. I have a really difficult time articulating my thoughts in front of larger groups, and speaking clearly, especially when I'm put on the spot. Seems like it would help me work through a lot of my SA.

What goes on in the meetings exactly? Is it mostly prepared speeches, or are there other chances for you to speak in front of a group impromptu as well?
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Old 09-14-2010, 07:33 PM   #6 (permalink)
 
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A toastmaster meeting is 3 parts. First part is prepared speech where you give a 5 - 7 minute talk about anything that interest you. Newbies are intimidated by this. Remember you are there to be comfortable in front of an audience.

Second part is table topics or impromptu speech for 1-2 minutes. You are asked a question and you have 1 -2 minutes to respond. I used to be scared of table topics. Now I am a seasoned toastmaster, I learned not to answer the question but talk about anything I wish to talk about for 1- 2 minutes.

Third part is evaluation where you will evaluate the speech given by another speaker. Evaluation is generally the sandwich method. You say what you liked about the speech then where the speaker can improve and finally what you liked about the speech.

Please join toastmasters. It will help you overcome some of your SA.
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Old 03-18-2011, 06:07 AM   #7 (permalink)
 
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I have been to two differnt toastmasters and it dose look like a great way to overcome fear of public speaking and SA. I did feel that i needed more time before i felt ready to get involved and i wasnt sure if this would be ok. I would be more inclined to stay with a taostmasters group if i knew i could sit in on a few sessions before making speeches. I can understand how CBT would be a good idea before toastmasters, becuase toastmasters is not really about helping people though SA experiences...its not a group therapy, its stricktly about getting up and speaking infront of people.
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Old 03-18-2011, 06:47 PM   #8 (permalink)
 
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I have been attending a Toastmasters regularly for approximately six months and, having never tried any form of therapy or treatment, I can say that it does help to the extent of your effort.

You're never pressured to speak if you're not comfortable, nor give speeches regularly; you are encouraged to initiate your own goals, roles, and speeches whenever you feel like it. If you don't want to do speeches, you can take on smaller, dedicated roles like Speech Timer or Speech Evaluator, which only require maybe 2-3 minutes of speaking. Doing those usually gives me enough buzz for the day haha.

Or skip all that and just do Table Topics, which is fun once you get a handle on how to answer a question. Like someone else had said above, if you have nothing to say about a certain topic just go with the first thing on your mind. It's a very free-flowing exercise and great practice for when you feel like you have nothing to say or contribute.

The other members are very supportive and speak only positively and constructively of your performance. As someone with SA, recognize that going up to the podium is an achievement in itself. Know that other members only want to see you succeed, and only through more critique and more practice will you grow out of habits.

I've only completed one speech so far, but I've taken a number of other roles and participated in every single Table Topics so far, and I can manage to see a slight change in my ability to think on my feet. It's not world-changing but small steps are better than leaps, at least for me. I've also begun chatting with a regular member after our meetings so that's left me with some optimism too.

With that said, I would like to see more Toastmasters activities that involve more than one person. If you are looking for a chance to practice social dynamics, then Toastmasters may be too formal a setup. I'm currently looking into free Advanced ESL classes to help develop my social skills.
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Old 03-19-2011, 01:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
 
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I belong to 3 toastmaster clubs. If you are not ready to give a speech, please do not stress yourself out. When you are ready to give a speech, lookup Youtube where there are several videos of toastmaster speeches. There are blogs where toastmasters have posted their speeches which will give you ideas of writing a speech or you could theirs speeches. Please note: everyone is nervous giving a speech. Most toastmasters are nervous about public speaking. Some are more nervous than others.

Keep doing it in small steps. Just be the timer for a few meetings, then pick up the Ah counter. So on and so forth. No one will pressure to fulfill a role. As you get to know the members you will become less anxious. That is how I manage my SA.
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Old 03-19-2011, 09:03 PM   #10 (permalink)
 
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I have done toastmasters for 3 years and its done wonders for me. The people are very understanding and supportive. You don't have to dive in all at once, you will be given small roles in the meeting like being the time keeper or presenting a word. Once your confidence grows (and it will) you can get up there for longer periods of time. I find that it helps me in all areas of my life.
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Old 10-11-2011, 02:01 AM   #11 (permalink)
 
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I was coaxed into joining a Toastmasters Club about 30 years ago. I didn't have a clue and just collapsed when given the role of chairman. Then I gave a speech which was so mindnumbingly boring and self-conscious with no eye-contact that I still have negative flashbacks about it now.

It tended to reinforce my SA. I guess what I needed was a mentor I could trust who encouraged me to stay and overcome those weaknesses.

Those failures definitely contributed to my low self-esteem and outlook to this very day. (further failures later with a piano recital I gave plus other speeches or speaking at meetings)

I try to laugh it off these days..but to any young person reading this...please address your SA early and try to overcome it, otherwise it will follow you all your life.
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:48 PM   #12 (permalink)
 
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I am a member of 2 toastmasters clubs since July this year and have done 3 speeches per club. I still feel my heart pounding a lot before I speak in front of people. I am starting to think that I will never not be anxious, I will always experience some form of panic attack and my heart will pound very fast before speaking. I have realized though that controlling your nervousness is the goal. My last 2 speeches I was told that I didn't show any signs of nervousness, but I was extremely nervous while giving those speeches.

The one thing about toastmasters that might not be so positive is that you will get used to speaking in front of your fellow toastmasters and then over time not experience SAD symptoms, but you will get extremely nervous once you speak in front of new people in a completely new environment.

I will continue being a toastmasters member of 2 clubs until the end of the year and then see where I go from then on. I wish I can join another group whereby I can practise my public speaking skills.
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Old 02-29-2012, 09:34 PM   #13 (permalink)
 
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I have mixed feelings about TM too. I did try it, and had some not-so-positive experiences (lots of physical symptoms, but not as bad as they have been in the past). Still, these negatives tend to reinforce SA, rather then help. Of course, I might be being much too self-critical, in typical SA fashion. I feel that I need a "Pre-Toastmasters" group, and that is why I started a self-help group in my area. I hope to be able to return to TM someday.
I know the table topics is supposed to be fun and low pressure, but I'm not good at all at thinking on my feet, and it's anxiety provoking for me.
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Old 02-29-2012, 11:22 PM   #14 (permalink)
 
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It is important to attend consistently.
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Old 03-23-2012, 09:42 PM   #15 (permalink)
 
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Glad to have found this- I'm attending my first Toastmasters on Monday. I feel that I have enough control over my SA for now to attend a meeting. Other than feeling extremely nervous, I hope that it will be somewhat exciting, as I don't do well sitting and listening to longer speeches (I know I'm horrible).
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Old 03-23-2012, 10:09 PM   #16 (permalink)
 
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Hasn't helped me yet,I'm thinking of quitting.
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Old 03-24-2012, 02:01 PM   #17 (permalink)
 
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Hi tons, I'm planning to attend a Toastmasters meeting soon to help overcome my social anxiety. I'm worried, however, that I'll be overwhelmed and either embarrass myself or be too timid to participate. Can you give me a little insight on your experiences with TM and why it hasn't been helpful?
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Old 03-24-2012, 08:51 PM   #18 (permalink)
 
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Always felt pressured during table topics,I always thought before I came to it that you could pass and refuse it if you didn't want to talk but it hasn't been that way. Table topics don't help me at all,I often can't think of much to say which is probably more about a lack of general knowledge/common sense than public speaking skills/ability to think on feet. I'm a bit more comfortable in front of this group of people(not much though),but I'd still be at square one with a new group of people. Just been doing too much too soon I think,I was never ready for the speeches and consequently never went that well and didn't develop at all from one to the other. I've been roped into the treasurer role as well which I'm making a mess of,just all in all more stress than I need in my life and I hate it.
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Old 03-26-2012, 11:38 PM   #19 (permalink)
 
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I went to my first Toastmaster group today. It was a very popular group apparently, there were more than 30 members total. I was greeted by a few very mature and experienced gentlemen wearing official badges for TM. I found the meeting to be very structured, in fact one of the most formal meetings I've been to (like a city hall meeting). TM makes public speaking seem like a hobby almost, as theres ongoing competitions and prizes involved within the organization. Almost everbody gets put on the agenda for minor roles such as time keeping and grammerist or bigger roles like making a speech. For those that aren't, they're included in the table topics to give impromptu speeches. It seems like everbody has to speak at some point.

I felt somewhat nervous when I had to introduce myself briefly, but I also understood that many people feel or felt the same way. I was somewhat overwhelmed though by the amount of people there and imagining giving a speech in front of such a large audience would be frightening (and of course being evaluated afterwards!). There is so much to learn about public speaking like tone, content, gestures, emotions, when getting past the anxiety part is a feat in of itself! How could you even think about the right way to speak when you're too scared to? A lot of practice apparently. I wish there would be an intermediate step before making a public speech and I'm not sure how to go about it.
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Old 03-27-2012, 08:14 PM   #20 (permalink)
 
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Here's a suggestion: take the Timer role as often as you can! It's helped some of our members who've hesitated and it's helped me get comfortable just standing up and saying something.

You can always pass Table Topics, say you'd like to pass when it's your turn. There should be no pressure on members or guests to speak if they're uncomfortable.
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