“After all the years that I really suffered from anxiety about speaking in public, I ask myself why I didn’t join Toastmasters sooner. There are two reasons. Firstly, I assumed that the clubs were filled with very proficient public speakers who wanted only to improve their skills. I expected them to be so sophisticated and very posh, like English gentlemen around a fireplace with port and cigars in their hands. I suppose there are clubs that could be closer to that stereotype but I was very pleased to find out that the Hedgehogs is not such a club. I have felt welcomed, encouraged, my small successes acknowledged and appropriately small improvement ideas received. We are a club in the countryside and our members are down-to-earth people who are doing the work, step by step, to reach their personal goals.
The second reason I didn’t start earlier is because I did not believe that a simple Public Speaking group could help me overcome my anxiety. It is not a self-help group for public speaking anxiety so what can it do to help? After two years, I can honestly say that I don’t know how it works, but it does. Tiny step by tiny step, taking a chance with a small role, perhaps presenting the word of the day or taking a Table Topic. The most useful bit of advice I got was ‘just be there’. Now I look forward to the fun and learning in club meetings but in the first year, before each meeting I suddenly had hugely important things to do, like my tax return or …. anything.
My advice would be, join with a friend and encourage each other to attend. Or ask someone in the club to check in with you before meetings to encourage you to be there. At some point you will find that it is easier. And then one day, to your total astonishment, you will find that it is even fun!”