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Home  > Article

Talking Out Loud

By Laura Sweeney

Here are 10 tips from Toastmasters that can help control your nervousness when speaking in front of groups.

To be successful on the job, employees must speak coherently and confidently. The best way to do this is to practice, practice, practice.

Your name is announced, you step to the podium and look down at the pages of extra-large print. Then you feel your mouth moving, but your brain can't process the words. It's busy listening to the voice inside your head. Can they see how nervous I am? What sentence am I on? Why won't my legs stop trembling?

Public speaking is a terrifying experience for many people, and very few people are natural orators. Luckily, communication skills can be developed. According to the 1999 Job Outlook Survey, communication skills are the single most important characteristic a potential employee should possess.

It Gets Easier With Practice
In a world that is increasingly technical, in which e-mail makes it possible never to talk to the person sitting three cubicles away, employers place a premium on communication skills. To be successful on the job, employees must speak coherently and confidently. The best way to do this is to practice, practice, practice.

Toastmasters International is the largest organization in the world devoted to helping people develop their public speaking and interpersonal skills. It has more than 170,000 members in 8,300 clubs worldwide. A Toastmaster's club is a learn-by-doing workshop in which 20 to 30 members meet weekly to practice their skills in a friendly, supportive atmosphere. There are no instructors. Instead, members guide each other through 10 speaking assignments that cover the basics of public speaking, including giving impromptu speeches and conducting a meeting.

Toastmasters teaches that feeling some nervousness before giving a speech is natural and healthy, because it shows you care about performing well. But too many "umms" and "you knows" can be disastrous. Here are 10 tips from Toastmasters that can help control your nervousness.

Tips from Toastmasters

  1. Know the room. It helps to familiarize yourself with the area in which you are speaking.
  2. Know the audience. It is easier to speak to a group of friends than a group of strangers, so try to meet some of the audience beforehand.
  3. Know your material. You will feel more comfortable if you practice your speech.
  4. Relax. Simple breathing exercises can relieve tension.
  5. Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking in a loud, clear voice.
  6. Realize that people want you to succeed.
  7. Don't apologize. Mentioning your nervousness only calls attention to it.
  8. Concentrate on the message, not the medium. Focus your attention away from your anxieties, and toward your message.
  9. Turn your nervousness into positive energy and enthusiasm.
  10. Gain experience. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to public speaking.

Toastmasters has been so effective in helping people gain confidence and poise in their public speaking that corporations, universities, and many other organizations sponsor in-house clubs as communication training workshops. Face the crowd at Toastmasters, and the next time you're behind the podium (and there will be a next time) your audience will think you're a natural.

To learn more about Toastmasters visit them at

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