Facing the Fear of Public Speaking with Toastmasters

By: DaWane, Sales Director

Standing in front of 800 parents and fellow students to deliver the welcome address, thoughts swirled around in my head. My hands were shaky, my palms oozed with sweat and I had a death grip on the podium. They say I did well, but inside, I was so uncomfortable, I thought I may vomit.

That was my experience as a 16-year-old high school senior as president of the National Honor Society during a school function. And it was a moment when I swore I’d never, ever feel that way again.

My strategy? Avoid all circumstances that could even possibly place me in a position to feel so vulnerable. It worked—until I was promoted in to sales leadership. Haunted by that moment in high school, I decided if public speaking was expected of me, I had two options: I could A) quit or B) tackle my fear head-on.

I chose option B. Thanks to McAfee Toastmasters, I am a skilled public speaker and am now heading up our office chapter in Plano.

Conquering My Fear of Public Speaking

I started overcoming my fears by seeking out opportunities to push myself out of my comfort zone—again, again and again. I presented to new hire classes. I volunteered to present at sales kick-offs. I even took a class called Acting for Non-Actors. Whatever gave me a chance to get more stage time, I was in.

About a year into my career at McAfee, I was invited to a humorous speech contest hosted by Toastmasters. I watched talented people deliver funny and well-done speeches. I thought to myself, “I can do that,” but the only way I’d know for sure was to give it a try.

Getting Involved and Growing with McAfee Toastmasters

Soon after, I realized McAfee had internal Toastmasters chapters in Santa Clara, Waterloo, India and Plano. I visited Plano Toastmasters, which validated my theory that public speaking is a muscle memory. The more you do it, the better you become. More importantly, the more comfortable you become enables your desire to do it more. It’s a vicious cycle, but a good one.

But last year, the McAfee Toastmasters in Plano was in danger of dissolving. Knowing the difference practice makes and wanting to help others overcome their fears, I knew I couldn’t let that happen.

In a 1×1 with my VP, I shared the growth I experienced in public speaking during my short tenure in Toastmasters and recalled the severe stage fright I plowed through. He agreed that even if you’re pretty good on stage, there is always room for improvement and how valuable this could be to others as well. He assigned the resurrection of the McAfee Plano Toastmasters chapter to me as my own leadership development project.

Leading the Charge for Toastmasters

I worked with various McAfee executives to pitch the value of a Toastmasters chapter and the benefits to individuals and the entire organization. In addition to improving your public speaking skills, Toastmasters brings opportunities to develop hands-on leadership experience—not only during chapter meetings but as a club officer or in district leadership.

Toastmasters resonated with enough people that we relaunched McAfee Plano Toastmasters in January 2018 starting with 21 members. Over the first 6 months of 2018, we successfully competed in speech contests. We recently signed our 42nd member and installed a new set of officers, who will lead our club going forward into the next wave of success. And for the first time ever, McAfee Toastmasters achieved “Distinguished” status.

A Long and Rewarding Journey

It has been an honor to be part of this resurrection story and to see the growth of our members—from each meeting held to each speech given. If you’ve ever had to give a speech and left the stage thinking, “Well, I’ll never do THAT again,” there is a solution.

For me, it was Toastmasters. I appreciate the learnings McAfee’s Plano chapter left me with and now the opportunity to lead and help others speak confidently in front of a crowd.

Interested in joining our teams? We’re hiring! Apply now!

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