• Toastmasters is a nonprofit, international organization with more than 12,000 groups worldwide dedicated to building leadership and public speaking skills.
• Lawrence Toastmasters Club meets from noon to 1 p.m. every Thursday at Douglas County Bank, 300 W. Ninth St. Meetings are open to the public and will resume after the holidays, beginning Jan. 6.
• For more information about the Lawrence club, visit lawrence.freetoasthost.org/index.html, or e-mail club president Peter Steimle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The KU Engineering Toastmasters Club meets from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays in room 2140 in Learned Hall at KU. The club is open to the public. For more information, email Tom Mulinazzi at email@example.com.
• For more information about other groups in Johnson County and Topeka, visit the area district website at toastmasters22.org.
With 2011 here, the inevitable New Year’s resolutions start flying.
Lose weight. Quit smoking. Spend more time with family.
A top fear that’s conspicuously absent from many resolutions lists? Public speaking and overcoming the sweaty palms, hyperventilating and dreaded anxiety that come with it.
“It’s a natural fear,” said Diana Carlin, a communications professor at Kansas University who teaches public speaking.
As many have it near the top of their fear lists, the fact that people avoid it rather than confront it is no surprise, she said.
“I’ve had students who are literally shaking,” Carlin said. “It’s a fear of failure, a very public failure.”
Aside from confronting a fear, Carlin advises her students about the benefits that good public speaking skills can bring in a tight job market.
“Communication skills are always on top,” Carlin said.
The biggest advice Carlin gives is taking that first step in a supportive atmosphere, whether in a college classroom or in smaller groups, such as a Toastmasters Club.
Lawrence Toastmasters Club — one of several such groups scattered throughout Topeka, Johnson County and Kansas City — meets weekly to help members face their public speaking fears.
During a recent weekly meeting, members took turns giving planned and impromptu speeches — in between a lot of clapping, encouragement and joking. Members offered helpful critiques on everything from the speaker’s tone, to how many “ums” the speaker used.
Some of the members clearly fall into the shy category, such as Jeff Platkowski, a local engineer who attends in preparation for group talks he gives at work.
Others — such as Emily Amos, a bubbly, outgoing KU graduate student — simply want to hone their communication skills.
Local member Rob Tabor said he’s thankful he challenged himself to face his public-speaking fear three decades ago.
“Nobody is born a perfect public speaker,” Tabor said. Instead of fearing public speaking, he encourages people to embrace it.
“Just getting started is the biggest obstacle,” he said. “Come on in, the water’s fine.”