I honestly believe this is the main issue around Toastmasters and why members aren't available to achieve their full potential.
The biggest problem with the fear of public speaking is not many people are aware of it, or are in denial. This is what leads to statements like:
"I don't have the time"
"I don't know what to talk about"
"it's not for me".
Really? Talking is not for you? An audience completely focused on you while you tell your story is not a desirable goal?
Every reason or excuse that people give about public speaking is a layer of obfuscation over the fear. It's difficult to admit that you feel unready to speak.
But the purpose of art is to develop your voice - whether writing, singing, acting, or speaking. Art teaches you HOW to think. Learning how to think develops your voice, find something worth talking about, and makes you powerful.
Like any muscle, you work out your artistic skill and it becomes stronger.
Practising your art makes you stronger at it.
Minimizing the Fear of Public Speaking
The first step is always to acknowledge the problem. If you don't believe you have a fear, you will do nothing to fix it, but your actions will continue to be defined by your subconscious biases. But once you know it exists, you can work towards replacing it.
If you don't believe you have a fear, you will do nothing to fix it, but your actions will continue to be defined by your subconscious biases.
Something that works really well for me is to replace fear with excitement. When we're in an excited or happy state, we are able to ignore fear quite easily. You can get excited about any aspect of speaking you're going to try. Perhaps you will use a crazy prop or an eye-catching visual. Perhaps you plan to really let loose and use extreme voice modulation. Maybe you're going to sing on stage.
Focus on what new thing you want to try next. That excitement will carry you through the performance and allow you to have a great experience.
Key Statements to Remember
The fear of performance will never go away. Even veterans with 20 years of experience still get nervous before performing. The key is to work past that nervousness. Here are some statements and mindsets that can help:
1. People want you to succeed.
Very selfishly, in fact. If you perform poorly on stage, people will be bored. Nobody wants to be bored, so secretly, everyone is hoping for an amazing performance. Use that to get yourself in the right frame of mind.
2. Nobody remembers your failures.
People remember great things - they remember amazing performances or things that left an impact on them. They don't have the bandwidth to remember times when they were underwhelmed or bored.
If someone remembers your failures, it is likely that they don't have nice things to think about, or that they're going through their own plateaus in life. You will rarely run across someone who remembers your failures.
Use this mindset to experiment and try your own ideas on stage, no matter how strange they may be. People will remember and appreciate the novelty.
3. Focus on the next step.
It's overwhelming to think about a massive education program or running through 30 speeches. It is also difficult to focus on 12 pieces of feedback from an evaluator.
Instead, focus on next steps. Pick one problem that an evaluator has given you, and work on improving it in your next speech. If you're a novice speaker, only focus on 1 speech, and set yourself a deadline.
If you're an experienced speaker, plan a series of speeches (maybe a full level from Pathways) and try to schedule them all. Pick a single challenge - a challenging challenge - and make it a 1-1 battle with it. You will minimize your feelings of overwhelm and helplessness.