When I first joined toastmasters back in June 2012 I didn't realise it was a Toastmasters club. It had been advertised on meet-up as King's, a public speaking group for people with a stammer or social anxiety. I wouldn't necessarily say that I have either but I certainly had one huge fear of public speaking, such a fear that I found it impossible to do a presentation in uni, such a fear that I would avoid any type of situation where I may need to speak out in front of a group, such a fear that if I had known at the time that it was a Toastmasters club, I wouldn't have set one foot inside that door.
You see, I had a misconception, I had heard about Toastmasters and thought of it as this big club where people went to show off how amazing they were at public speaking, where people with amazing grammar and command of the English language spoke eloquently and with sophistication, I could never stand up and speak in front of these people!! However this club advertised on meet-up sounded friendly and encouraging, so a much easier way to face one of my biggest fears. After all, it was in a pub, so I could at least go for a pint if it all went really badly, or indeed if it all went well. Win win.
Well it turns out Toastmasters sometimes is a little like that, members at King's can give the most amazing, inspiring, well-structured speeches that we all look up to, but it's not a competition, well, you can win best speaker/evaluator/table topics, what I mean is, it's not competitive. Each member of King's are there to better themselves, and to encourage each other, egging each other on on our personal quests to better ourselves and become comfortable with public speaking.
I still remember my first night, I did a table topic and it was absolutely terrible, I think I lasted 10 seconds and that probably includes the walk up there and back down again. So embarrassing I felt awful, but then, for some reason, I stuck around at the end of the night, had a chat with the other members, they didn't care how badly I had done, I was new and they had all been new at one stage, the rest is history.
It wasn't long before I was signing up for the various roles, each one giving me more and more confidence to stand up and speak in front of an audience, then, my first ever speech! Oh my god, was I nervous? Yes! Did I get through it? Yes! Was it awful? No!!! It felt amazing, yes of course I was shaking, with the adrenaline running through me, but for the first time ever it felt positive, an achievement rather than something scary and horrible.
Next thing I had a presentation to do in uni, but instead of running away and making excuses that I couldn't be there, I was right up there, me, doing a presentation! Was I scared? Yes! Was I shaking a little? Yes! Was it the worst thing in the world? No!! Now, this can only come with time, a little bit of practice, and the right supportive environment where you're allowed to make mistakes, allowed to be nervous, allowed to grow and get better and be encouraged to do so from a room full of smiling faces. Who could ask for better?!
When I sat back down after my presentation in uni I knew I had made the right decision to join this public-speaking group of mystical origin, I am a member of a toastmasters club, yes, me.