THE BLOG
09/21/2013 09:30 pm ET | Updated Nov 21, 2013

The Art of Public Speaking

Most people fear public speaking more than death; severely limiting opportunities to communicate their thoughts and ideas, while stifling their personal growth. Only if forced to give a speech do they practice and then they will procrastinate until the last possible moment. Public speaking is like walking instead of crawling. It is a natural progression but requires practice and, when mastered, it greatly expands one's view of the world. So how does one embark on this courageous journey?

The trick to learning the art of public speaking is much like anything else that requires practice. Find people from whom to learn who are good speakers themselves, a safe and encouraging environment to practice in and then put in the necessary mileage. From the start, it is surprising how quickly one will grow in confidence. It takes just ten speeches to become a competent speaker and, after that, it is all about honing one's speaking style and skills to perfection.

Toastmasters International is a volunteer organization dedicated to personal growth and is a rewarding avenue available for anyone interested in developing public speaking skills. For the past eighty years, they have helped millions overcome their fears of public speaking and, with over 200,000 members across the world a club is always at close hand. Clubs meet weekly, bi-weekly or monthly and, in three months time, anyone can become a competent speaker.

At Toastmaster meetings, members learn to give impromptu speeches, prepared speeches and to evaluate and provide assistance to other people's speeches. All the while, building social skills with people from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds and expanding one's knowledge on a wide array of topics.

In addition, there is an opportunity to learn how to run a volunteer organization, gaining invaluable knowledge on how to motivate others to succeed without the tool of money. Mastering the use of soft-skills enables one to let go of outdated methods, such as pressuring, moralizing, guilt tactics and bribery while experimenting and learning from others helps to build more sustainable and effective leadership skills in a safe environment.

Often overlooked when building speaking and leadership skills, are the tremendous personal advantages one gains from embarking on the journey of conquering the fear of public speaking. When one continuously exchanges thoughts and ideas with others about what is important in life, it helps to clarify one's values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.

One learns to become a keen critical thinker and formulating ideas in a new way, mentally moves one away from a limited problem - solution focus, to questioning the framing of the situation altogether. Raising questions such as: "What gifts do I have to give and what is it I really want out of life?" Incorporating the answer to these questions into one's life through daily practice creates a more conscious life and it becomes much easier to commit to change.

Through assisting people to master the art of public speaking, Toastmaster meetings provide immense encouragement and support from fellow change agents who contribute to the group while they learn to view life as a participant sport.