Nervous About Speaking in Public? Reframe Your Stress

Man suffers from fear of public speaking. Frightened speaker standing near microphone is afraid of giving presentations to audience. Person with phobia of public speaking isolated on white background

Many beginning Toastmasters must overcome their fear of public speaking. In order to overcome this obstacle, speakers can re-think or reframe their mindset by considering the positive benefits of stress.

Stress is Natural; Relax!

One helpful way to deal with stress is to consider its effects as natural and useful. While it is natural to think of stress as bad, stressful feelings may simply mean that your body is reacting to arduous or demanding conditions. Knowing that you can cope with stressful feelings can help you avoid feelings of panic.

“… current advice for anxious people focuses on learning to ‘relax’ … deep, even breathing and similar tips,” says Jeremy Jamieson, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. Methods of calming yourself and re-thinking about stress can be a good strategy prior to your first speech.

A Study of the Fear of Public Speaking

In one study called the Trier Social Stress Test, two groups of adults were given the task of presenting a five-minute speech about their strengths and weaknesses with only three minutes to prepare. The first group was given information about the advantages of stress and were also asked to read summaries of three psychology studies that showed the benefits of stress. The second group received no information.

During their speeches, judges provided negative nonverbal feedback such as shaking their heads in disapproval, tapping their clipboards and staring stone-faced ahead. The first group, prepared with information about the benefits of stress, performed much better than the second group based on their physiological responses such as blood flow. In addition, the authors of the study theorized that the speaker’s short-term stress responses were shaped by how they interpreted physical cues.

Summary

Re-framing your reactions to a stressful situation as natural responses and learning methods of relaxing can help you get past your fears of public speaking.

Tips for Public Speaking on Video

Toastmasters have many opportunities for producing video content. These include creating podcasts, participating in a video interview, creating a YouTube channel, speaking in a Zoom or Teams meeting and simply FaceTiming with your phone.

Female young hispanic looking at webcam and talking with gestures.

Start Small

When creating your own video content start small. Consider a “Tips and Tricks” format, perhaps a set of 30- or 60-second speeches on small topics. Table Topics is great practice for this type of content. These short videos need not be published. Their main purpose is to give you the chance to practice with equipment such as microphones and lighting without a great time investment. Another advantage is that you can evaluate (or have someone else evaluate) your progress.

Test Before Publication

As your content matures, consider your various options for publication. These include single videos or a complete channel on YouTube, video podcasts, TikTok and Instagram. Test your content and media choice(s) to ensure that you can upload correctly, mark or tag your content and add descriptions, comments and links. Test your ability to publish privately, review security choices and study search engine optimization (SEO) options.

Script, Ad-Lib or Somewhere In-Between?

Most Toastmasters prepare speeches by writing them out as a script or preparing an outline. This allows the speaker to concentrate on the purpose of the speech (informational, entertaining, persuasive or inspirational). With a video recording, a strict script may come across as stilted or monotonous. Of course, a completely impromptu presentation may seem unprepared, shoddy or inexpert. Aim for a middle ground where you stick to an outline but allow yourself to be spontaneous as you describe specific issues or circumstances.

Personal Conversational

In a video, your facial expressions and general body language and presence will take on greater importance. This is due to two factors: most watchers will associate a video with an in-person meeting; however, only part of your body will be visible, with your face taking up most of the screen. The result is that watchers will pay more attention to your face in a video than they would for an in-person speech. To address this potential problem, approach producing your video the same way that you would engage in a conversation with a friend at lunch seated at a table. This makes you concentrate on eye contact, above-the-table gestures and facial expressions.

For More Information

There are several on-line resources to assist you in speaking on camera.  Here is a short list.

How Body Language Speaks

A video published by graduate students at Stanford University should be required viewing for Toastmasters.

Body Language is an Important Part of Speech

Toastmasters know that their body language must harmonize with the message and purpose of their speech. The original Competent Communication manual had an entire project titled Your Body Speaks. This chapter documented how your stance, movement, gestures and facial expression are important parts of speaking. They “… enhance your message, give you credibility, help release any nervousness you feel … and also help you achieve your speech’s purpose.”

Communication begins even before you open your mouth to speak. Your audience gets a first impression of you from your stance and your posture.

Stanford University Body Language Video

The video is titled Make Body Language Your Superpower. In it, Stanford students explain three basic gestures and how they can be used to strengthen your message. They introduce their presentation with the following: “Body language, both the speaker’s and the audience’s, is a powerful form of communication that is difficult to master, especially if the speaker is nervous. This video will teach you how to use your body language effectively, read the audience’s body language and what to do when they look bored or disconnected. Use these tools to enhance your nonverbal communication abilities and better connect with your audiences.”

Preparing  a Speech?  Use This Speech Template

Sometimes the most difficult part of a speech is the preparation. What will you say, and how will you say it?  Who is the audience, and how will you connect with them?  Luckily, a simple template can help you construct your speech in a way that helps your audience relate to your topic.

Begin at the Beginning

Consider the purpose of your speech. Toastmasters learn this idea during their first level projects in Pathways. Speeches can be informative, entertaining, persuasive or inspirational. Try to stick to a single purpose. Speeches that are a combination of two or more purposes are more difficult to prepare as well as perform. Consider your audience, and what they may know about your topic. Consider how you intend them to benefit from your speech.

A Simple Outline

With the above things in mind, consider the following simple outline:

  • By the end of my speech on [Speech Title];
  • The audience will appreciate or value [short list of topics] ;
  • And will take the following actions [short list of actions].

This outline or template helps you focus on the “Why” of your speech. As you create your introduction, main points and conclusion you can apply the template to ensure that the audience hears and receives your message multiple times. Here is an example.

Template: “By the end of my speech on Microwave Mug Meals, the audience will appreciate the ease of creating simple meals using a coffee mug, a microwave and a few simple ingredients. They will come away with recipes for creating simple meals that they can pass along to children, teens and even college students.”

Introduction: “Microwave Mug Meals are something I discovered online. They are a great way to introduce children to simple cooking, and can provide nutritious meals that are speedily produced.”

Main Points: 

  1. Relate a story about a teen who didn’t have a lot of time but still wanted to make their own meals.
  2. Describe some recipes you have tried, including stories about successes and failures!
  3. Note that even pizza, brownies and thanksgiving meals can be created in this way.
  4. List references for recipes and more information.

Conclusion: “Microwave Mug Meals are a fast and simple way to introduce children and young adults to nutritious foods. Try some of these yourself!”

While the subject of this speech is intentionally humorous, the purpose of the speech is to inform the audience. Use the Template to remind yourself of the main ingredients of your introduction, speech body and conclusion.

Member Spotlight

Toastmaster Tara Tucker

Meet Tara Tucker, Coach, Mentor, Author, CEO

Tara Tucker first discovered Toastmasters when she was invited to attend a club Open House by a friend. “It was different,” she said. “I felt safe, and encouraged. I knew I could grow here.”  Soon after, she joined Club 2714 “Secondary to None”, and started with the Coaching curriculum in Pathways. “I really enjoy getting evaluations. These are critical for my growth.”

Tara also looks forward to Table Topics. “The ability to do impromptu speaking is important for coaching and mentoring others.” This helps in her work as an author and coach as she inspires others to, “speak up and share their stories to heal, deliver and transform the lives of others.”

Tara was hooked on communicating at an early age. “I’ve always enjoyed writing, and my first publication was at the age of 13. However, I never aspired to be an author. Writing was a way to release my inner thoughts and feelings, so I didn’t bottle them up.”

When asked for her thoughts on the future of Toastmasters, Tara noted that,

“… the skills that Toastmasters teaches are necessary, especially for younger people. The program needs to be as inclusive as possible, since you have to know how to talk, either virtually or in-person. Try it out! See what we all have in common.”

Tara Tucker is a Best-Selling Author, Coach, Minister, Podcast Host, and CEO of Tucker Publishing House, LLC. She is also a youth mentor with The IMAGINE Mentoring Program of Michigan. She is strong in her faith, and through her transparency in authentically sharing her story, she empowers women and youth to unmask, speak up and share their stories to heal, deliver and transform the lives of others. Visit her web site at https://iamtaratucker.com/

Secure Your Zoom Meetings

In this short article we provide some tools, tips and techniques for ensuring that your Zoom meetings are secure from unautthorized or malicious use.

Prevent Issues in Club Meetings

In the past two years many Toastmasters clubs have migrated their meetings to an on-line space, either in whole or in part. The most common tool these clubs use is Zoom. In this short article we provide some tips, tools and techniques for ensuring that your Zoom meetings are secure from unauthorized or malicious use. At the end, we furnish some links to Zoom Support for more detailed information.

Video call group business people meeting on virtual workplace or remote office. Telework conference call using smart video technology to communicate colleague in professional corporate business.

Primary Security Tools

Zoom recommends that meeting planners use random meeting IDs, rather than use the account owner’s Personal Meeting ID (PMI). This is because the PMI is always the same. Anyone attending one of your meetings now has the ID required to attend all future Zoom meetings!  Another feature Zoom recommends is the Waiting Room. Meeting attendees are automatically sent there to wait for the host to explicitly invite them into the meeting. See Zoom’s blog entry on Keep the Party Crashers from Crashing our Zoom Event for more details.

Managing Zoom Meeting Participants

There are multiple security options available for hosts when they create meetings. A few of these are discussed here.

Summary

Zoom provides lots of guidance for hosts and meeting planners on its blog. Zoom hosts should be regular visitors to this site to keep up with new Zoom security and usability features. Recent articles  include, “5 Essential Zoom Chat Security Features”, “How to Nail the Zoom Background”, and “Expert Advice for Hosting A Successful Hybrid Event.” Visit the blog and get up-to-date information on functions and features to keep your Zoom meetings secure.

Overcoming Public Speaking Myths

Here are some common myths that we hear about public speaking.

Here are some common myths that we hear about public speaking. While trendy, these myths omit valuable context that Toastmasters can use to better develop speaking skills.

Too Much Practice Will Ruin Your Speech

Some hold that too much practice will ruin their speech and make it “stale”. This is false. Great speakers like Steve Jobs put in lots of extra hours tweaking and improving their speeches to make them distinctive and exceptional. Speaking is a skill, and skills can always be improved with practice. Remember the “glows and grows” in a Toastmasters speech evaluation? The evaluator generates these by using active listening skills. For more information on speech evaluation see Evaluate to Motivate from the Toastmasters International Successful Club Series.

Speaking Skill is a Gift

False. While some people seem to speak naturally and effortlessly, the reality for most speakers (especially professional ones) is that they do lots of research and take the time to sharpen their skills. For example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave thousands of hours of sermons and speeches before giving his I Have a Dream speech in August 1963.

You Cannot Master Your Fear of Public Speaking

Fear is a natural emotion when humans interact with other humans. We all want to be liked and have others respect our opinions. Experienced speakers train themselves to cope with their fear by “converting” it into enthusiasm and passion. In this way, they channel the energy created by that fear into positivity.

Summary

Assess how you feel about these myths: do you believe any of them? If so, here is a quote from the original Toastmasters Competent Communicator manual: “More than four million people will confirm that the Toastmasters program works, but it works only when you prepare carefully, actively participate, and speak as often as possible. Apply yourself, and you will experience the benefits you want in all aspects of your life.”

Toastmaster Regions and Districts

What are the geographic boundaries of Toastmasters District 62?

Many Toastmasters ask, “What exactly are the boundaries of District 62, and what other Districts are nearby?” Toastmasters International provides the answers to these questions with its Region and District Maps. An excerpt from this document shows the boundaries of District 62:

Copyright (c) 2022 by Toastmasters International

District 62 includes the following:

  • Most of the lower peninsula of Michigan (excepting the southeast corner of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County, which is in District 28); and,
  • The eastern portion of the upper peninsula of Michigan (the  area in the Eastern Time Zone).

Nearby Districts are grouped into an area called Region 6:

  • District 28, consisting mainly of Detroit, Toledo Ohio, and Windsor Ontario;
  • District 11, which is most of Indiana;
  • District 35, comprising  Wisconsin, Illinois (minus Chicago), Iowa and Missouri, as well as the western U.P.;
  • District 10, consisting of northeastern Ohio;
  • Districts 30 and 103, which together contain most of Chicago, Illinois.

District 62 is adjacent to multiple other Toastmasters Districts. Indeed, sometimes Toastmasters in our District will attend TLI training sessions in other nearby districts. As you can see from the larger maps, Toastmasters has 14 Regions spread across six continents. Regions are further divided into 126 districts. As club membership grows and declines, Toastmasters International headquarters may at times create new districts or merge current districts to maintain a balance.

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