One of the most often asked questions of Toastmasters is...
"Can Toastmasters help me overcome my fear of speaking or stage fright?"
To put it simply, Yes, with the right group - but let us explain:
Fear has been described as "an emotion caused by impending evil, alarm or dread". Yet, in some circles is thought of by the acronym "False Evidence Appearing Real". This is because upon investigation of what we may fear, we often find that there is little cause for alarm. Fear can be one of the greatest obstacles on the road to success. Fortunately, it has been found that one can combat this negative by concentrating on goals and aspirations, but it will take time. Toastmasters understands this simple fact and has developed a self-improvement, goal-setting environment in which each of its members is working towards the goal of self-betterment through communication and leadership skills.
Within the Toastmaster community, everyone uses the same manuals, programs and materials, but it's the personality of the club that will help you succeed in the areas you need. For example, if you want a club that is heavy on protocol in a formal setting because you are aware that you learn best in that environment, then there are Toastmaster clubs that can meet your needs. If, on the other hand, you know that you work better in a more relaxed setting, there are clubs for that as well. Don't think every club is the same, because they are as varied as their membership.
The right club will be your first step towards overcoming anxiety. After all, it's not simply with "techniques" and "exacting preparation" that one can overcome fears, but with a well-rounded supportive environment that constructively promotes its membership. It's been stated that "attention to image gets in the way of achieving an authentic heart connection with your listeners". However, proper image and proper presentational skills, techniques and preparation, when used together, are the keys that not only allow you to connect with the hearts of your listeners, but, will also have your words dwell within their minds.
We understand that fear does not instantly dissolve for clarity to take over. It's a gradual process. We know that it takes time and patience, not only on the part of the member, but also on the clubs end. In time, the fear of speaking will fade when it's realized that the members and evaluators are not there to tear apart the speaker or the presentation, but to give him or her the ability to become the best they can be. The happiness gained when receiving support from an audience is not the end all or be all. Allowing one the knowledge that the time invested was and is something that can translate into the real world is the true joy Toastmasters receive. With the skills and support of the Toastmaster community, you will discover that it will become as easy to speak to a group as it is to speak to a close friend.