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Thame Speakers — a way to end your public speaking fears?

Surveys show that public speaking is second only to the thought of dying as a source of fear for many people! Let's be perfectly honest, public speaking can be a pretty daunting prospect: anything from a few folk to a large audience, each with their own thoughts and opinions, looking right at you — judging, questioning, frowning... and while you may have the perfect poker face on the outside, the butterflies can be looping-the-loop on the inside.

Do you sometimes deliver presentations (large or small) and feel you could have delivered them more effectively? Do you end up being self critical over your delivery or performance in front of groups of people? Have you ever been caught out by an unhelpful colleague trying his or her very best to derail your influencing efforts in meetings? I certainly have.

The good thing about each of these situations is that there are things you can do to help. One I have personally pursued is a global organisation called Toastmasters International. We are lucky to have one of their clubs right on our doorstep, in the name of Thame Speakers.

I'm coming to the end of my first year as a member of this group and wanted to share with fellow Haddenham residents my experience to date, as I feel this will resonate well with many others.

A lot of people consider themselves to be good communicators. However, even if you consider yourself to be one of the best, you can always get better. That's the reason household names such as Napoleon Hill, James Lovell (former US Astronaut on Apollo 13), Carl Dixon (from the band "The Who") and even the actor Tim Allen are members of their local toastmasters clubs. You would think after a 1000 episodes of "Home Improvement" that Tim Allen may not need the practice, but the truth is he does!

Okay, so what exactly is Toastmasters?

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members to improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills. Its membership currently exceed 332,000. Members improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 15,400 clubs in 135 countries that make up the organisation's global network.

Each club is essentially a group of people who learn and improve their speaking skills in a supportive environment. Each meeting has an agenda that includes prepared speeches and impromptu speeches, all of which are constructively evaluated over a two hour period (meetings are held twice monthly). Our club has speakers of varied abilities, from complete beginners to national level speaking contest winners.

Thame Speakers meet on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month at Chinnor Rugby club. Guests are welcome to visit us as many times as they like to see what we're all about.

For those who come to our club to build general confidence levels, the gains we see can be dramatic. Lack of self confidence can play a big part in many people's lives and this club is a great way to build self confidence in a supportive environment. However, it's important to emphasise that the benefits often go way beyond just public speaking. Think of how it might improve your day-to-day confidence levels when interacting socially, your interview performance, your work performance or just your general sense of wellbeing.

While many come to our club from a social or self-improvement angle, the reasons for my joining were more professionally orientated. From a business perspective, one of the key benefits is that it keeps one sharp in the day-to-day delivery of presentations -- a key skill in the modern work environment. Toastmasters provides members with the opportunity to get up in front of people on a frequent basis, so that individuals can really be at their best for each work presentation they do.

Other benefits I have discovered include:

  • enhancing the ability to think on one's feet
  • dealing more effectively with nerves
  • structuring one's thoughts and presenting them more clearly
  • controlling body language

Please get in contact if you have any questions or need any more information — I'm more than happy to answer questions.

Jonathan Stone
Toastmaster, Thame Speakers
Email: jstone@mdsol.com

Thame Speakers is part of Toastmasters International which has clubs covering the globe, and we meet at Chinnor Rugby Club, Kingsey Road, Thame OX9 3JL on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month, at 7:45pm for an 8pm start.

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