Public Speaking & Elocution

Parent Q&A

  • Local toastmasters?

    (1 reply)

    Hi - I'm interested in trying Toastmasters, and I might convince my 17 1/2 year old to try it with me.  But how do we find a club that meets weeknight evenings near Oakland/Berkeley that would be open to a late teen and a middle aged mom (probably not a retired age group)?  I looked on the toastmasters website and the sheer number of clubs around here is overwhelming.  I'm also not clear how it works - do you sign up and just go for awhile until you feel you've gotten what you want out of it?  It doesn't seem that there's a set course or duration?  We both love public speaking but would like to improve.

    RE: Local toastmasters? ()

    >do you sign up and just go for awhile until you feel you've gotten what you want out of it?  You just show up at a meeting and, assuming you like it, pay dues and start going through the speeches. >It doesn't seem that there's a set course or duration?There is a set of 10 broadly defined speeches which you go through. The club I joined just started Toastmasters' new program called Pathways which offers different sets of speeches, depending on whether you want to focus on Persuasion or Storytelling or whatever. People tend to go through the set in about a year. The point is to practice speaking, though, and there are people who keep going for decades honing their skills.

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Public speaking anxiety- 14 yr old

Sept 2012

We are in Marin and 14 yr old daughter is terrified of presenting in front of her Peers. It's beginning to threaten her academic performance. Does anyone know Of a toastmasters group in Marin Count or nearby That would be appropriate for teens. Any other suggestions would Be helpful.

A slightly different approach -- have you thought of improv classes? My daughter has taken classes at Bay Area Theatre Sports (BATS) in Fort Mason, They were great -- the teachers have a lot of experience with kids -- but there may be improv classes closer to you as well. This may be a fun route to go. Wendy

Hi! I work for the Y in Berkeley, but I would suggest contacting the Marin YMCA about their Youth & Government program. One of my sons participates through the Albany Y and there are lots of opportunities to practice speech in a very comfortable, caring environment with quite a bit of support. Good luck! Eden

Hi, I used to teach a class called, Public Speaking with Confidence. I can offer a few tips. It helps to be prepared with what you are going to say. There are tons of books on how to create and deliver a good presentation. It's also helpful to watch a great speaker, like perhaps a TED talk ( See if your daughter is okay with you videoing her doing a presentation. Then use some of the guidelines you discovered in reading, or the things you noticed working well in good speakers.

Chances are part of the issue is the challenge many teens have regarding peer acceptance vs. rejection.

Specifically, good speakers stand comfortably, do not slouch, rock or fidget. They make eye contact with people in the audience, use appropriate hand gestures. It's important to project so people in the back can hear. Being familiar enough with the material so you don't need to read it is important because you lose eye contact and are boring when you just read. I recommend just having a few notes or an outline on numbered index cards. Smiling is good. Breathing is excellent. Stop and breath before starting and again before exiting. (No one will ever say, ''Wait, was she breathing?'') Breathing is also a good way to pause rather than saying um. Hope this helps. Sydney

Speech coach for high school debater

March 2012

My daughter is doing well on her high school debate team. She feels her arguments are solid, but would like some tutoring on speaking and presentation. Does anyone know a good tutor for debate or public speaking? Thanks for any ideas

My daughter found the Stanford Debate Camps inspirational and as a HS Senior won the California State Championship with her debate partner. Do a Google search for: Stanford National Forensic Institute. The students live in the dorms @ Stanford (wonderful setting)and meet interesting students from around the nation who attend this camp. The best part is being around other kids who share their passion for speech and debate. SNFI debate Camp dates:

 Date: Jul 29th - Aug 4th    Grade: 9th-12th      Location: Stanford  University      Resident:$1,285.00 Date: Aug 5th - Aug 11th    Grade: 9th-12th    Location: Stanford  University      Resident:$1,285.00 

Mom of Debater

Voice Projection/Elocution lessons

Aug 2009

Hi , I am looking for someone to help me speak loudly and project my voice better and have some vocal variety. This is not singing related just to improve presentation and speaking. May be something unconventional like acting lessons would be the answer. Guidance please.

Even though you are talking about well...talking...or speaking, it might be helpful to talk to a singing voice teacher. When we sing, we are learning to use our voice to the breathe properly, use the larynx/voicebox in the proper most effective way, to project teh sound by relaxing the throat, enunciate properly, open the mouth enough, sound vowels properly. All these things are what we use to speak and to sing. that said, I know that Berkeley rep ahs a lot of classes for actors. You could also try the Jazz School on Addison in Bkly. I can recommend my voice teacher, Ellen Robinson, ellen [at] She'd at least be good to talk to about what you're looking for. Good luck anon

I highly recommend Cara Hale Alter at Speechskills ( I was fortunate to be able to take a class from her---Projecting Credibility and Confidence--paid for by my work. She was teaching at UC Extension...don't know if she still does. She's a great teacher and excellent coach. She helps you identify your strengths and weaknesses in a very non-threatening, non-judgmental, helpful manner. I don't have any experience with the other trainers in her company but Cara's wonderful. Sally

Public-speaking coach who's good with fear

Sept 2008

I need a good presentation coach who can also help me cope with my intense fear of public speaking. I'd like help both with improving my presentation skills (for the sake of my audience), and with reducing my painful anxiety (for my own sake). Any recommendations? Shrinking Violet

Have you checked out Toastmasters? Like you, I struggle with extreme anxiety in group settings and just the thought of giving a presentation would leave me anxious for weeks. I joined Toastmasters about 6 months ago and what a difference ! This is a great organization. And, like us, most people join because they are terrified of public speaking. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming. People are rooting for you! I mean it. Each speech you give is evaluated but with the utmost sincerity and the desire to help you succeed. There is no pressure. One thing I learned was that I have strengths when speaking (and I thought I had none). I noticed real growth when I gave a presentation at an international conference this year. Prior to Toastmasters, I would have been paralyzed with fear. But this time was different. Yes, I was anxious but only right before speaking. The presentation went well and I actually made contacts and enjoyed the conference. Toastmasters has allo! wed me to grow both personally and professionally. The cost is around $39 every 6 months. A bargain compared to a coach. And you get to meet a lot of great people. I highly recommend it. Go to to find a meeting location. There are a lot of meetings out there and you can shop around until you find the right club for you. I am a member of the Walnut Creek Toastmasters (a great club meeting every Wednesday from 7-8pm). Stop by if you are in the area. Best of luck. You are not alone! - Rachael

Have you tried (or thought of trying) Toastmasters? I was part of the organization for several years, until I had my baby. It's an inexpensive way to get some practice speaking, for people who are all pretty kind and understanding and who also have to get up to speak. Try out a couple different meetings til you find one you like - I went to one on Thursday mornings at 7 am at Summit Hospital, but most of them meet in the evening.

Another option, but one that's much more expensive, would be to try a Dale Carnegie class. There's also a lot of support in those classes, and you learn a lot of relational stuff in addition to the speaking parts. They've got really great leaders for their classes.

Good luck and have fun! When I started in Toastmasters, I was very, very anxious before I got up to speak, and now I can get up and speak with not much nervousness at all. It took practice, and for a while I couldn't believe I would put myself through that again and again, but in the end I realized I had fun speaking in public! Talia

I highly recommend Sydney Barbara Metrick, PhD. as a public speaking coach. She teaches a class in the West Contra Costa Adult Eduction program called ''Public Speaking with Pizazz'', and she also works with people privately. She is both a certfiied hypnotherapist and expressive arts therapist and has lots of experience working with people with many different fears in a variety of ways. She is great to work with, and a very dynamic public speaker herself. She can help you develop confidence, and ''Pizzazz'' as a speaker. I found her to be very non-judgmental which makes it easy to work with her, and to build one's confidence. I used to be scared to death to stand up and speak in any group setting, but now feel totally strong and confident in any setting. I teach and give talks and lectures on a regular basis now. She can be reached at: 510 223 3882. Lori

For the poster who needs need a good presentation coach who can also help you cope with your intense fear of public bet I have a recommendation for you: Anna Scott Anna [at] 510-919-2254

You will love me for recommending her because you will love Anna! Anna uses body-based techniques with her highly compassionate coaching. She can help you break your own barriers and advance. jessica

Overcoming panic attacks when speaking in public

Oct 2007

I am looking for a safe place where I can get experience getting up and speaking in front of other people. I went to a Toastmasters in a couple different states and nobody there said anything to me and it seemed they are more interested in getting you to sign up and donate money; I didn't see much practice getting up and speaking. Plus they were very boring business types, nothing at all where I'm coming from. I am wondering if someone thinks I should find a communications class in a college or junior college, or if there are other resources.

A bit of background: I am a stutterer but in my early 20s had speech therapy which helped me learn how to control the stuttering nearly all the time. The therapy involved a lot of speaking on phones and in person to overcome my fears; it worked and I do both of these all the time at work and have done so for over 20 years. But I never learned to overcome my horrible freezing up, bottoming of self confidence, and panic attacks that occur when I have to get in front of others and talk, or get involved in group discussions, things like that. In addition to the feelings and fears described I feel I have nothing to contribute so who would want to listen to me? I fear getting shot down every time I open my mouth, which seems to always happen. This panic about speaking has had profound repercussions in my personal and professional life: I left an Ivy League graduate program because of these speech panic attacks -- the classes were full of very self confident young women who had no compunctions whatsoever about speaking up and I felt like I was substandard and did not belong there.

So I like to hope that if I could learn how to talk on the phone and interpersonally, I can learn how to speak up around other people, that it is a skill one can learn. I am living in Berkeley again (I switched to a distance program so I don't have to worry about speaking in front of other students or faculty, who grade on class participation). Any suggestions are most welcome. anonymous

Please, don't give up because of this. It will get better. when people used to tell me that, I would scoff at them. when i was in grad school (a phd program) i developed almost a social anxiety disorder about speaking up in class. It was horrible and it had a huge effect on what jobs I pursued (i went into research, not teaching). Well thru a few years of research, lo and behold I am now in a constant position of having to present my work. What works for me now? beta blockers aka Propanalol. They do nothing to affect your cognition, they just keep your parasympathetic nervous system (panic attacks) from happening. You still feel nervous, but you don't panic. After a few presentations taking beta blockers, you then realize that you can do this. That it isn't such a life or death thing. And what i realized was that what I was really panicking about was the panic itself.

talk to your doctor. Mine was very open to writing me a prescription to try a beta blocker. It has done wonders for my career. I now present every couple of months, and when some research needs to be presented, my boss asks me to present rather than him because he thinks I am better at it than he is. anon

Both Piedmont and West Contra County adult schools have public speaking classes. They are typically small and made up of all types of people. Each class has instruction and an opportunity to do a 2-3 minute speech before a video camera. You can then see and evaluate your self at the end of each session--a very helpful tool. Adult school classes are generally very affordable. adult ed advocate

Which toastmasters?

April 2007

Can people who have participated or are participating in local Toastmaster's groups tell a bit about their experiences? It seems easiest to pick based on what fits in the schedule, but are there other considerations? If anyone can give specifics, that would be appreciated. anon

Lakeview Toastmasters is a terrific group -- they've been in existence for over 40 years -- a warm, supportive, fun place to build your speaking skills and confidence. They meet every Thursday 7-8am at Summit Hospital in conference room just off the cafeteria. I've been a member for several years (currently on a break due to my heavy workload - planning to return this summer). Wendy

Fear of public speaking/stagefright help?

Sept 2004

I am looking for recommendations for a class, seminar, or therapist (or all of the above) to help me cope with my paralyzing fear of public speaking. I am not looking to become a famous lecturer or anything. I just want to be able to stand in front of a group of parents at my school and give a talk, run a PTA meeting, give a toast at a wedding, and so on.

All my life I have avoided making speeches or giving presentations. It has held back my career and even hurt feelings (as when I was maid of honor for my best friend and couldn't bring myself to make a toast). I can't even read to class of young kids with out shaking, turning red, and freaking out. The funny thing is that in small groups and meetings, I am fine and outgoing. I told one person recently that I couldn't give a talk at a PTA meeting, and she absolutely refused to believe it because I am outgoing and seem very confident.

Does anyone know of any good ways to deal with this? I definitely need outside help, but searching for help so far has pulled up self-hypnosis and oddball self-help gurus. I really want to work through this with someone reputable. Lastly, has anyone ever tried beta blockers? Are they bad for your system? Thank you, Speechless

I think it's fairly common to be nervous and even fearful about public speaking. In my career, I had many occasions to speak in front of government regulators and members of the public about health risks. Not exactly a ''feel-good'' topic!

We started a Toastmasters group at our workplace to give us more practice with public speaking, and it really did get easier! Even fun! Toastmasters is an international organization with meetings all over the place. Their program is well organized and they have a ton of educational resources. You can check them out at and think about joining a group, or forming one! Remember, everyone there has started out with the desire to become a better speaker and everyone can relate to the nervousness. It was actually a great team-building experience, since everyone really does encourage you and wants you to do your best. And everyone has had their share of mess-ups. Toastmasters actually teaches you how to deal with mess-ups and how to channel your nervousness into positive energy. I loved it! Hope you try it. Christina

Although I hesistate to push pharmaceuticals, here goes: as a singer with mild stage fright I've tried Beta Blockers, specifically Inderol (sometimes humorously referred to as ''End- it-All'') with good results. I don't really know the data on what it does to your system, but my parents are both professional musicians who have used it off and on throughout their careers with no obvious ill effects. You only use it when you need it (an hour to hour and a half before you go ''on stage''), so it's probably not too bad. It works wonderfully to give a sense of calm, takes away the shakes, and lets you do what needs to be done. One side-effect I've noticed is a slightly dry mouth sometimes, but keeping a bottle of water handy solves that.

Having said all that, I hope someone else gives a good recommendation for a coach or class, since learning confidence is probably what you're really looking for. Wishing you luck. Speaking Circles, developed by the brilliant and funny Lee Glickstein, is a fabulous way to learn to love speaking to any size of group. You learn through gentle practice (no negative comments ever allowed) in front of small groups. One of Lee's principles is that the speaker starts by receiving. It's so easy to stay in presence. I now adore public speaking! Ann

I love Toastmasters. There are many clubs with a variety of meeting times and vibes in the East Bay. Toastmasters is designed to ease you into and teach you about public speaking and leadership in a friendly, very low cost and fun environment. It's one of my main non-mommy related outlets and I have really enjoyed it. I'm in the Oakland Hills club and would be happy to give you more info. The Toastmasters website lists all the clubs there are, I believe. Cheers, Lina

You might want to join a Toastmasters group. Here is a blurb from their website I was a member for a while and really learned a lot. Each club is different, so if don't like the first one you try, try another.

''At Toastmasters, members learn by speaking to groups and working with others in a supportive environment. A typical Toastmasters club is made up of 20 to 30 people who meet once a week for about an hour. Each meeting gives everyone an opportunity to practice:

Conducting meetings. Meetings usually begin with a short business session which helps members learn basic meeting procedures. Giving impromptu speeches. Members present one-to two-minute impromptu speeches on assigned topics. Presenting prepared speeches. Three or more members present speeches based on projects from the Toastmasters International Communication and Leadership Program manuals. Projects cover such topics as speech organization, voice, language, gestures, and persuasion. Offering constructive evaluation. Every prepared speaker is assigned an evaluator who points out speech strengths and offers suggestions for improvement.'' Helena

I can totally sympathize! Albany Gateview Toastmasters worked for me - really small group (maybe 5 people) and supportive environment. After a couple months I realized that the anxiety I had built up about it was really anxiety about failure and really had nothing to do with my ability to speak in public which is now quite solid. You're already on the road to overcoming this because you've taken the first step to ask for help. Good luck! Linda

One program worth considering is Speaking Circles. I attended a 1-day workshop and found it to be a very interesting approach, though I'm not yet sold on its usefulness for my particular needs. It might be a good place for you to start, as it's a very gentle program, nothing like Toastmasters. Check out the website to see if it's something that would appeal to you -- Good luck!

Toastmasters helped me quite a bit when I was in grad school and had to teach and make presentations. I think there are a couple of Toastmasters groups in the East Bay. If you Google ''Toastmasters'' you should be able to find their website. liz

How about an improv class? It's a really fun way to deal with stage fright. East Bay Improv teaches classes at the Albany Community Center. The beginning classes have lots of non- actors. It's a supportive environment where everyone else is in the same boat you are. heather

Accent Modification

June 2003

Is there a place in the East Bay where one can take diction lessons? My husband wants to lose, or at least tone down, an accent. MEG

Joan Cehn is a licensed/credentialed speech pathologist in Oakland with over 15 years of experience, including accent modification/reduction. Her Masters in Speech Pathology is from Northwestern University. She can be reached at 510-301-1345, or joanc1036 (at) Good Luck! J. Roberts

Public Speaking

March 1999

I highly recommend Butterfield Speaks in San Francisco. Richard Butterfield has been providing this service for many professionals, after having worked in acting for years. He also works outside of San Francisco, e.g., in the East Bay, Los Angeles, and as far away as Australia. I'm not sure of the phone number, but it should be in the phone book. Wendy

Although I have never tried it myself, Toastmasters (in Berkeley, I think) has been recommended to me by both a career counselor and a writer who used it to prepare for a book tour. There's an 800 number in the White Pages that will help you find the closest group. L. Silver

I highly recommend joining a Toastmasters group in your area. Toastmasters is an international organization dedicated to improving public speaking skills. Like many club-oriented organizations, you do need to find a group with which you click, so don't be discouraged if you need to try a few different clubs out to find the one that's right for you. Before mommyhood, I worked for an environmental consulting firm doing human health risk assessment. I frequently needed to present findings to members of the public, and often found these presentations daunting. Toastmasters helped me a great deal--I'm a believer. Look them up in your phone book Christina