I Have a Secret (But I’m not the only one)!

By Sharon Brown

I was surprised to learn that I was not the only one holding this secret.  Once I started talking about it, several of my fellow Toastmasters confessed that they had the same secret. So, I thought it would be useful to share my experience.

I joined Lakeview Toastmasters club in 2003 with the intention of becoming better at expressing myself.  However, I was not new to public speaking. 

In the late 70’s I was an Outside Sales Manager for a San Francisco landmark hotel. My job was to knock on corporate office doors at places like McKesson or Chevron, cold calling in the San Francisco Financial District, to persuade these companies to schedule their meetings, conferences, and parties at my hotel. I also provided tour groups with a walkthrough of the hotel’s Beaux Arts interior, conducting a lecture on its historical background.

But I never received feedback after speaking in any of these places.

Today, I want to share my SECRET with you: Evaluations of my speeches terrify me.

When I began speaking at Lakeview Toastmasters, I found the oral evaluations painful and scary.  I would tune out the Evaluator (La, La, La, La) and try NOT to let my anxiety show.  Once I got home with my stack of evaluations, I RIPPED THEM TO SHREDS without a glance and tossed them straight into the trash.  The anxiety got the best of me and I left the club in 2006.

When I returned in 2012, I still had that fear, but I had a plan. I told myself that, in order to become a stronger speaker, I would have to continue to practice so I could understand what I can do better.


Once home, I made myself read one or two evaluations at a time until they were all reviewed. No matter how painful the feedback was, I forced myself to write down key points that I could use in my next speech. It took me years using this process to build up my courage.  Now, I still become a little queasy when I receive an evaluation. Or when I give an evaluation.  I’m afraid I’ll miss the obvious with a case of brain fog. 

My Lakeview club has been a safe place to finally reveal my secret.  As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t know others had the same fear.

Now I am more comfortable, and I can review the verbal or written evaluations and make notations to use the suggestions from my fellow club members in my next presentation.

Practicing my evaluation skills is helping me to feel more confident. The key is to keep speaking. 

I don’t know that I’ll ever get over feeling a bit anxious but knowing that the SECRET is out and knowing that I’m not alone keeps me going.  I hope my story will help other Toastmasters work through their fears. Toastmasters clubs like Lakeview, strive to create a safe environment for members to express their fears.  

When I feel safe, I am willing to step outside of my comfort zone.

When I feel confident, I will go beyond my comfort zone even if it feels scary.