Frequently, I find myself telling people about a wonderful, enjoyable local club I belong to. As I tell them all about the fun and camaraderie we experience on a weekly basis, what an educational and character building experience it is and that they too can easily join and participate, excitement builds in their eyes.
When I mention that this club is Toastmasters however, I sometimes see that excitement drain way to be replaced by abject terror! These same folks lower their gaze to the floor, mumble something about having a gut wrenching fear of public speaking and quickly attempt to change the subject. If this sounds all too familiar to you (I was once there too) I have tremendous news for you! One of the fundamental purposes behind Toastmasters is to help individuals just like you overcome their fear of public speaking and to develop good solid public speaking skills! A natural introvert, I now love to speak in front of groups! You don’t believe we can help you? Let me tell you about a few other individuals who overcame what they once thought to be an insurmountable inability to speak in front of people.
In Exodus 4:10, Moses told God that he probably wasn’t the man to speak for Him to the Israelites and lead them out of Egypt because he was a slow speaker and did not speak well. Moses did have a suggestion however; his brother Aaron would be a better choice!. God had other plans and Moses managed just fine. It may have taken 40 years, but that had nothing to do with his ‘slow speech’. Aristotle, one of the founding fathers of Western Philosophy is said to have been a stutterer. It doesn’t seem to have slowed him down too much.
A few years later, Sir Isaac Newton suffered from bouts of stuttering. Where would we be today if he had not overcome and been unable to articulate his 3 laws of motion? Not very far from where we started, I would guess.
The recent hit film, “The King’s Speech” chronicles the story of how King George VI was helped to overcome a stammer on his way to bringing Brittan into WW2. George’s countryman Sir Winston Churchill, said to be one of the greatest orators of all time acknowledged that he too once had a speech impediment which he overcame.
Life might be better if Bruce Willis hadn’t been able to utter ‘Yippee Ki-yay etc’ but, after overcoming a speech problem, at least he was able to say it. Tiger Woods is said to have spent hours talking to his dog to improve his speech. He might have been better off if he hadn’t become such a smooth talker. Samuel L. Jackson got into acting at the suggestion of his speech therapist. Julie Roberts struggled with stuttering as a ‘Pretty Young Girl’. Jimmy Stewart overcame much of his stuttering problem and turned what remained into a tremendous career and an enduring and endearing legacy.
Other names on the list include Washington Irving, Thomas Jefferson, Aesop, Napoleon, Nat King Cole, Virgil, and Thomas Hawkings.
Toastmasters boasts its share of famous people including Tim Allen (‘Home Improvements’, ‘The Santa Clause’), James Brady (press secretary to Ronald Reagan), Nancy Brinker (founder of Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation), and Debbie Fields Rose (Mrs. Field’s Cookies).
The point of this history lesson is that if you have difficulty speaking in public, you are not alone, but in fact find yourself in some pretty impressive company!
Great speakers are rarely born; most require training and practice. We at Hutchinson Toastmasters II can provide both in a fun, relaxed and encouraging environment. We meet at 7:00 am, Thursday mornings in the Development Center building of the Hutchinson Technology campus. You may check out our meetings free and unpressured as often as you like! Stop in at one of our meetings soon, we’d love to see you.
Oh, and if you are one of those folks who aren’t afraid of public speaking, join us anyway! You’ll have a great time!