Lose the fear of public speaking and learn new skills

Most people at one time or another have felt anxiety or outright fear of public speaking. Unfortunately, most people at one time or another must give a presentation, a speech, or a toast. And the best way to get over those jitters?

“Just by doing it a lot,” says Norma McLean, treasurer of the local Toastmasters club, Upward Bound, which meets Wednesdays at the Bethel Gospel Chapel. “You just have to do it, and the more you do it, you lose your fear.” Like many others, McLean joined a Toastmasters club as a place to practice.

Toastmasters International is a worldwide organization founded in the 1920s to teach public speaking and leadership skills. A typical Toastmasters meeting follows an agenda, beginning with introductions and then scheduled speakers, followed by an impromptu session called Table Talks. Members evaluate each others’ performances with valuable feedback. The meetings are run efficiently by the Toastmaster (the emcee), and they’re timed to last around 90 minutes.

Dan McCosh, president of the local club, has been a member of various clubs since 1994. Before he retired, he was often required to make presentations while working as a public servant. His boss, who was a Toastmaster, suggested he join.

“I was a bit scared at first with all these great speakers, but it’s very supportive. And I just kept going.” He says it’s one of the best decisions he’s made, and believes it would help pretty much anyone in their work and social life.

“Toastmasters isn’t life,” he laughs. “Nobody joins Toastmasters to become the best speaker in their club. It helps people, and we work with people [to] work toward their dreams and objectives in their own life. When someone joins, we sit down with them and ask them, ‘What are you trying to do?’ And then we look at how our program [can] help you achieve that.”

He remembers one member who said only 12 words at his first meeting. Five years later, he was the district director and has no trouble giving a rousing speech. Other members have gotten raises at work.

McLean agrees, and adds that the benefits extend outside of one’s job. “A lot of people join to improve themselves at work if they have to give presentations, but I joined because I like to listen to people. It’s a social thing for me. And there are different roles you can do, and you can learn how to organize,” she says, explaining that as the club treasurer, she has learned about managing money.

Toastmasters follows a program called Pathways that allows members to learn a series of skills.

Courses can be completed on your schedule, but it’s best to attend meetings regularly. “We believe in learning by doing. We help people develop confidence in standing up in front of people. We also teach a variety of speaking skills and leadership skills, organization skills, listening skills, time management skills. Mentoring and coaching people.”

McCosh invites anyone interested to drop by to see if they like it before officially joining. He promises that speaking is not mandatory.

“Where else can you have a bunch of positive people who are interested in developing themselves? It’s like a family. There are a lot of people who are trying to get ahead in life and we can help them do that, and it’s not that expensive.”

Find out more at https://upward.toastmastersclubs.org/.


Wednesdays, 7 pm

Bethel Gospel Chapel (use the back door)

11461 95 St

Memberships: $12/month

Featured Image: The local Toastmasters club, Upward Bound, meets Wednesdays at Bethel Gospel Chapel. | Supplied