Saturday, 24 February 2018 22:52

Would a speech coach or toastmasters be better for overcoming paralyzing anxiety and fear of public speaking in classes?

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While I would whole-heartedly recommend either option for someone who was experiencing anxiety and fear of public speaking, I am concerned about the aspect of the anxiety being ‘paralyzing.’

Toastmasters is the world’s leading provider of inexpensive, effective communication and leadership training. They are experts at helping their members at overcoming their fear of public speaking and developing skills to become better communicators and leaders.

While there may be anecdotal stories from Toastmasters clubs around the world, as to how their club has helped someone who is paralyzed with fear, to becoming fearless, or at least less fearful, I don’t believe it to the norm.

In its essence, each Toastmasters club is only as strong and experienced as its members are. There may or may not be an experienced member who has worked with a member who was terrified of public speaking and helped them move forward. This gives them the experience to help others. But it is still likely random chance as to which supportive technique works and which don’t.

The same concept applies to speech coaches. Many have taken formalized communication programs that would likely cover how to work with people who are experiencing severe anxiety. Many providing speech coaching services as a result of their working through their own hurdles in programs such as Toastmasters.

I would like to offer a third option and that is seeking the services of a trained mental health professional who has experience in helping their clients reduce their anxiety.

The anxiety is the root cause of the problem. You aren’t going to be able to take advantage of the numerous opportunities that Toastmasters offers, if you are crippled by your fear.

As you learn techniques to control your anxiety, then by all means, join a Toastmasters club.

Another way of looking at it is that you experience extreme anxiety when the possibility that you have to speak in public presents itself. Something is causing your anxiety. The anxiety is a maladaptive coping mechanism. Its serving a purpose. Its preventing you from public speaking, which causes you anxiety. That becomes a vicious circle.

Professional treatment can help break that cycle. Building one’s self confidence and courage can go a long way in reducing one’s anxiety. In some cases, anti-anxiety medication may be beneficial.

Thanks for your question.

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