Henry Alford in The New York Times:
Public speaking can give you the willies. Even the most seasoned speakers worry that they will be exposed as frauds, or purvey all the narrative excitement of televised fishing. They worry that they will have to refer by name to Turkmenistan’s president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. So when an acquaintance asked me recently why I had joined Toastmasters, the 292,000-member international organization that lets people practice giving speeches to one another, I told him I was hoping to reduce terror by putting myself in terror’s path as often as possible. He applauded this idea and asked how it was going. “Pretty well,” I said. “My heart has hammered a lot, but I haven’t passed out yet or tasted my own bile.”
“So: Looking good!”
Now that we can watch TED talks on Netflix and on airplanes, it seems a lot more of us are looking to enthrall the masses via the deadly cocktail of homily and headset. Before she gave a February 2012 TED talk about introverts that would generate more than five million views online, Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” joined Toastmasters; on her website, Ms. Cain encourages all aspiring public speakers to follow suit. The 89-year-old Toastmasters is the granddaddy of beard-tugging and business-card-swapping, long predating stalwarts of the seminars industry like the World Economic Forum and Renaissance Weekends.