Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once made the observation that the average person fears public speaking more than they fear death.
According to Seinfeld, if that logic was applied to a funeral, then people in that category would rather be in the casket than deliver the euology.
Gossophobia, the fear of public speaking, affects all segments of society and Laura Honeyman sees all types as public relations spokesperson for the Toastmasters Clubs of Northern B.C.
"I remember going in for the first time and not having the courage to speak my name," said Honeyman. "I've seen people give presentations with their eyes closed because their nerves were so apparent."
The seven Toastmaster clubs in Prince George are joining forces for a public demonstration of what they do on Tuesday, at Westwood Mennonite Church Learning Centre (south side of the church) at 2658 Ospika Blvd,, starting at 7 p.m.
The "Dead Man Walking" presentation will focus on Betty Thideman's experiences dealing with her efforts to overcome her public speaking phobia.
"She took that hilarious speech and won our area [competition] and took it to Vancouver for a competition," said Honeyman.
"We want to show people what we do, and it's not just about giving presentations. It truly is about building confidence. As people got through the various projects they develop leadership skills and blossom within a very short period of time. The personal growth and professional growth that happens as a result is quite amazing."
B.C. has 290 Toastmaster clubs and more than 6,000 members who represent all walks of life as tradespersons, office workers, professionals, technical services, business owners, professional speakers, sales persons, front line workers, labourers and active retirees. There are more than 13,000 Toastmaster clubs worldwide and according to the Toastmaster International website, only 3.2 per cent of its members are unemployed.
"We have two types of speakers who join Toastmasters," said Honeyman, an employment coach who works as a recruiter for the T-Rex Group Inc., a Prince George employment agency. "We have professional speakers who join and continue year after year. For them, it's like going to the gym and the more reps you do, the more proficient you are and it becomes like a maintenance package.
"Then we have many others like Betty and myself, who join because they were terrified of public speaking or it became part of their job. It gives you the confidence to voice some of the things you need to be saying and may be otherwise afraid to verbalize."
To bring shy newcomers out of their shells, Toastmasters employs short role-playing exercises that don't take much preparation and don't require a lot of confidence to complete. The majority of practice speeches last no more than seven minutes. Table topics involve two-minute speeches which require participants to talk about subjects without any advance warning.
"It could be something that's completely fabricated or something based on their knowledge, it doesn't really matter, and some of them can be really fun," said Honeyman.
For more information go to www.pgtoastmasters.com.