Dealing with NervousnessEdit

As the seasoned veteran advised the nervous beginner, “It’s fine for you to have butterflies—as long as they fly in formation”

Nervousness, speech anxiety, stage fright, platform panic—known by many names, it’s a problem every speaker must confront. Actually, feeling nervous before a speech is healthy: it shows that your speech is important to you and that you care about doing well. But unless you learn to manage and control nervousness, it can prevent you from feeling at ease as a speaker.

Here are a number of suggestions for aiding you in feeling more comfortable as you address your audience:

Know the roomEdit

Become familiar with the place in which you will speak. Arrive early and walk around the speaking area. Stand at the lectern, speak into the microphone. If you'll be using visual aids, practice with them. Walk around the area where the audience will be seated. Walk from where you'll be seated to the lectern, as you will when you're introduced.

Know the audienceEdit

If possible, greet audience members as they arrive and chat with them. It's easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of strangers.

Know your materialEdit

If you are not familiar with your material, your nervousness will naturally increase. Practice your speech and revise it until you can present it with ease. Recording yourself practicing your speech will allow you to critique your speech and track your improvement.


You can ease tension by doing exercises. Sit comfortably with your back straight. Breathe in slowly, hold your breath for four to five seconds, then slowly exhale. Repeat 10 to 20 times. Or do physical exercises. Stand straight, arms extended over your head. Then bend over and touch your toes. Repeat 10 times. Stand with your feet apart. Extend your arms out at your sides, then turn your head and torso to the left. Return to center, then turn to the right. Repeat 10 times. To relax facial muscles, open your mouth and eyes widen then close them tightly. Repeat five times.

Visualize yourself giving your speechEdit

Imagine yourself walking confidently to the lectern as the audience applauds. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and assured. Picture the audience applauding as you knish and return to your seat. When you visualize yourself as successful, you will be successful.

Realize that people want you to succeedEdit

Audiences want speakers to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They want you to succeed—not to fail. This is especially true in your Toastmasters club, where your audience will always be understanding and supportive.

Don’t apologizeEdit

Most of the time your nervousness doesn't show at all. If you say nothing about it, nobody will notice. If you mention your nervousness or apologize for any problems you think you have with your speech, you’ll only be calling the audience’s attention to it. Had you remained silent, your listeners may not have noticed anything.

Concentrate on the message—not on the mediumEdit

Your nervous feelings will dissipate if you focus your attention away from your own anxieties and outwardly toward your message and your audience.

Turn nervousness into positive energyEdit

The same nervous energy that causes platform panic can be an asset to you. Harness it, and transform it into vitality and enthusiasm.

Gain experienceEdit

Experience builds confidence, which is a key to effective speaking. Most beginning speakers find that their anxieties decrease after each speech they give.

Speech Topic SuggestionsEdit

Are you spending more time thinking about what to talk about than you spend preparing your speech? Don't despair. Speech topics are all around you. You simply need to learn to see them.

What do you know that others may find of interest? Are you an expert gardener? Do you know a 1ot about the stock market? Have you started your own business? Are you an experienced traveler? If soy what advice or information could you give listeners that they would find helpful? For example, if you are an experienced traveler, you may be able to speak about such topics as:

  • how to pack a suitcase
  • traveling with children
  • ways to reduce travel expenses
  • local weekend vacation spots
  • first aid items every traveler should carry
  • how to protect valuables from theft

Personal experiences can yield a wealth of speech ideas. Have you experienced or witnessed a situation that disturbed you or made you think? For example, perhaps you witnessed a kind act a child did for an elderly person. You could describe the incidents analyze its significantly then build a message around it that would be of value to your listeners. Maybe a relative was recently diagnosed with a serious illness. You could research this illness to help listeners learn more about it and help them determine if they too are at risk. Or perhaps you had a childhood experience that had an impact on you. Maybe a schoolmate came from a poor family, you were caught cheating on an exam, or you had the opportunity to participate in a special program. What lessons did you learn from the experience that you can share?

You can also get speech ideas from outside sources like books, magazines, newspapers, television and the Internet. News, entertainment, sports, science, medicine and business and economic developments all can provide speech topics. Likewise, advice columns, letters to the editor and commentaries are rich in ideas.

Still stuck? One of these themes may generate an idea or two:

  • Advertising
  • Books
  • Community service
  • Diet
  • Discipline
  • Exercise
  • Habits
  • Heroes
  • Integrity
  • Manners
  • Retirement
  • Television programs

Speech ideas can appear suddenly and disappear just as quickly. Keep a pen and paper or handhold computer with you at all times. When an idea strikes, immediately write it down and file it for later use. Soon you'll have a number of ideas to choose from the next time you are scheduled to give a speech.

For more information on finding speech topics, see The Better Speaker Series program “Selecting Your Topic” (Item 274) or the flier “They’re All Around Us” (Item 1616).

Table TopicsEdit

The ability to “think and speak” quickly is an important skill that will help you be successful. That’s why the “Table Topics” portion of the Toastmasters club meeting was developed. Table Topics provides you with the opportunity to practice thinking and speaking quickly. You learn how to present your thoughts in a clearly organized manner with a minimum of preparation.

The Table Topics portion of the club program is conducted by the Table Topicsmaster. The Table Topicsmaster announces a topic and calls on members, one at a time, who give impromptu one to two-minute talks on the topic. Or the Table Topicsmaster may assign subjects individually.

You’ll frequently be called upon to speak during the Table Topics portion of your club’s meeting. Following are tips to help you prepare for impromptu speaking:

  • Read You will be able to respond better if you're knowledgeable about current events. Read major magazines and newspapers, and listen to newscasts.
  • Organize your thoughts When you're given your topic, pause to decide what the main point of your response will be. For exampled if you're asked to give your opinion about an issued determine your viewpoint. Then support your viewpoint with two or three reasons.
  • Structure your thoughts Like a prepared speech, an impromptu talk has an openings body and conclusion.
  • Remain calm Remember, your audience will think you are confident if you appear confident.

Toastmasters International's Table Topics handbook, “Think Fast!” (item 1315) and The Better Speaker Series program “Impromptu Speaking” (Item 273) offer more suggestions for Table Topics.

How To Introduce a SpeakerEdit

Eventually, as you participate in your club, you will serve as Toastmaster of the meeting. One of your roles as Toastmaster will be to introduce the speakers. Every speaker deserves a thoughtful and helpful introduction. The best introductions help the speaker and the audience establish a common bond.

An introduction is a small speech—less than a minute in your Toastmasters club—which contains all the elements of a full speech. It has an opening, which grabs the audience's attention and makes them aware of the importance of the upcoming subject. It has a body, which explains why the subject was chosen, why the speaker is qualified to address it, why it is appropriate for this audience, and why this time is appropriate to discuss it. It has a conclusion, which in this case allows the speaker to begin the presentation.

Your introduction should tell the audience about the speaker’s expertise and give relevant background information. You should set the mood of the audience for this particular speech, an especially challenging task if there is a marked change from the mood of the preceding talk.

While covering these pointed be careful not to give the speaker’s speech. Allusions to the topic will arouse audience interest without taking away from the speaker’s impact. Build expectation and end your introduction when interest peaks. Weave the speaker’s name into the introduction as much as possible, so the audience will clearly relate this speaker with this topic. Above all, don’t overdo it. Say what needs to be said, then sit down.

An introduction requires almost as much preparation as a full speech. You will need to contact the speaker in advance and discuss the relevant information about the speech and speaker. You should then make an outline of your introduction and rehearse it. Good preparation will clearly showy and both the audience and the speaker will appreciate it.

Consider this example of a poorly prepared introduction:

Our speaker, Linh Singh, has been a Toastmaster for two years and is currently our vice president membership. Tonight Linh is going to tell us about teenage drivers. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Linh Sing.

Then compare it with this example of a proper introduction:

Two years ago Linh Singh's seventeen-year old son died in a traffic accident. What Linh learned after the accident stunned him. One in five teenage drivers has a crash in their first year of driving, and motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year-olds. In the two years since his son’s death, Linh has worked with our state’s motor vehicle department to develop a program for teenagers about safe driving and advocates stricter laws for teenage drivers. Many of us have children who are learning to drive or who will be driving in the next few years. In his speech entitled “Help Them Arrive Alive,” Linh will tell us what we must do as parents to ensure our children drive safely. Please welcome Linh Singh.

For more information, read the Toastmasters International pamphlet ”Introducing the Speaker” (Item 111) and The Better Speaker Series program ”Creating an Introduction” (item 277).

Thanking a SpeakerEdit

Your role as Toastmaster of a meeting also includes thanking a speaker when he or she has finished. As the speaker finishes, you should lead the audience’s applause as you return to the lectern. Then express appreciation to the speaker on behalf of the audience. If you wish, you may comment on some aspect of the presentation or its appropriateness. For example, you could state, ”Last week two more teenagers in our town were killed in car crashes. Thank you, Linh, for telling us what we can do to prevent these tragic deaths.”

Keep your acknowledgment brief, and be pleasant, gracious, and sincere, even if you don’t agree with the speaker’s viewpoint. Avoid offering your own opinions or making a speech of your own. Be courteous and stay focused on the speaker.


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