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Test your confidence with Toastmasters

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There is nothing like confidence.  And there is nothing like speaking in front of people to test your confidence. Or losing in a football game.

The same question comes up in both situations: "Can I do this?"

Whether in speaking or football, building experience and skill is crucial to the answer.

In football, the path to success is straightforward: attend practices and games, listen to the coaches, focus, and work hard. In public speaking, the process is not as apparent. Often an event comes up quickly and there is no time to build up the required skill and experience beforehand. There you are, in front of business colleagues or wedding guests, wondering, "Can I do this?"  

Fortunately, there are ways you can prepare to speak in public. One way is to take a course through university or a community college. Another way is to take a workshop over a number of weeks, such as Good to Great Public Speaking Training by local Winnipegger, Anna Echols.

I did that a number of years ago and got a solid start. One of the cheapest and most fun ways is to join a Toastmasters Club near you. They meet at many times and locations in the city, including the North End. There are two charges involved in membership: $72 US plus a $20 fee for new members and then additional club/meeting fees on top of that, up to $100.

What you get is a weekly opportunity to practise public speaking through small roles in meetings, such as sharing an inspirational quote or joke and through larger roles such as leading the meetings or giving a short speech. In this way, all members can grow from whatever level of experience they have.

My 11-year-old son has been playing flag football and developing all sorts of skills as a receiver, defensive back, and quarterback. It’s hard for his team not to lose confidence when they’re losing a game but, with time, they will believe in themselves and each other, even when they’re behind.

My son has also attended Toastmasters with me, as he is homeschooling.  It has been interesting to watch him grow in confidence. He started with telling jokes, and just recently he gave the grammarian’s report. It takes time.

Toastmasters has helped me present myself more creatively, to evaluate others and to speak off-the-cuff, supported by a room full of my biggest fans. As a result, I have accepted opportunities to try new things, such as emcee an art reception and preach a sermon. I still waiver with self-doubt as I prepare but when I face a crowd of people and open my mouth to speak, I am confident that "I can do this".

For more info on Toastmasters or to find a club near you, visit:  www.toastmasters.org

Sonya Braun is a community correspondent for the North End. You can contact her at sonyajoy@gmail.com

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