One of the most frequent questions I get when teaching my Public Speaking for Attorneys seminar is how to reduce nervousness/fear when speaking in public. Toastmasters International has a great “top ten” list that can help people with their fear and I endorse all of their suggestions.
There is no better way to manage your fear than to:
- be well prepared
- know your materials inside and out
- and to practice many times prior to your presentation.
However, sometimes that just isn’t enough, especially for people with a high level of communication apprehension (yes, that is the technical term).
And when being prepared and practicing isn’t enough, I always recommend people join a local Toastmasters for 6 months to a year, so that they can give small, short speeches, over and over to a friendly, supportive, non-threatening audience. This is an excellent way to work through your fear.
Recently someone at one of my seminars mentioned that law firms and corporations can form their own Toastmasters groups. This is indeed the case. If you go to Toastmasters, you can find more information about this.
While this idea has potential, it also has some drawbacks for those who have a significant amount of fear. For most people, speaking in front of one’s colleagues is not as easy as speaking in front of a group of supportive strangers. This is because most people who fear public speaking are really afraid of embarrassing themselves and being judged. And it is more risky to be judged by a colleague in your office than a stranger.
Instead of bringing the club to your law firm or public agency, ask your local bar association to create a Toastmasters club there. This could help bar members tremendously – harnessing the power and experience of the Toastmasters organization while providing attorneys the opportunity to practice speaking to other attorneys in a non-threatening environment.
OK bar associations, who’s game? I’ll even volunteer to head up a local Toastmasters group for the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) for the first year.