Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Sat, Oct. 19

Speak the speech, I pray you... Just don't ask me to do it!

The epidemic is real.

Some people experience shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness and even short-term memory loss. Others might stammer, suffer extreme anxiety and even begin to cry.

While the problem is not contagious, the fear of public speaking affects millions of people across the nation.

Toastmasters International can help.

Debby Waugh has been involved with Toastmasters for 20 years and explained that good public speaking skills carry over into many aspects of life.

The non-profit, educational organization helps members gain confidence and build the proficiency necessary to accomplish more in their jobs and lives. For example, an individual may enhance his or her interpersonal skills, learn to run meetings and get their points across without causing offense.

During a meeting, the club audience provides feedback and critical evaluations in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere.

One example of feedback: A member might count the number of times a speaker says "ah" or "um" or any number of filler words.

Members also learn how to present their topic within a certain amount of time, how to overcome anxiety and "break the ice" in a social or professional gathering.

"We assign to you a mentor and walk you through your first three speeches...it's not the end of the world if you make a mistake," Waugh explained.

The club offers great tools for the real world, she said.

And the habits learned carry over into personal lives as well.

Waugh said she's a better listener now and doesn't just nod her head while internally formulating her response during a conversation.

"We encourage people to attend several meetings at no charge just to see if it's something they want to commit to," Waugh said.

Club member Susan Vreyens stood at the podium, during last week's meeting, and gave a speech about how to teach students to raise their hands in class.

Vreyens effectively got her points across to the audience by use of body language, anecdotes, humor and practical knowledge - and she was able to engage her listeners.

Fellow member Laurie Carr related how she could barely stand at the podium to deliver a short speech. Carr explained that she was terrified by the thought of speaking to a group of any size. Now, she no longer dreads public speaking.

Member Garrett Hamlin, who doesn't appear as though he's ever had a "shy" day in his life, admitted that he has been uncomfortable talking in front of people.

"I think it's a universal fear, speaking in front of a group. By the time I joined the club, I'd already done quite a bit of speaking. I thought it would be a piece of cake," Hamlin said and added that he had much to learn. "Everyone was so supportive and (club) refined my leadership skills."

For more information on Toastmasters International, visit toastmasters.org. To request more information about the Prescott Valley Toastmasters Club, visit prescottvalley.toastmastersclubs.org and click on the Contact Us link.

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