I joined Toastmasters a little over a year ago. I really hate getting up in front of a group of people, and I hate that I hate it, so it seemed like a good idea.
I’d seen it mentioned as a way for writers to improve their public speaking skills, but I hadn’t given it much thought because the two things I can see myself doing someday are panel discussions and readings, not speeches.
But I looked into it more closely, and discovered 1) there’s a part of every meeting called Table Topics that focuses on impromptu speaking, kind of like a panel, and 2) there’s an advanced manual (after you finish the first 10 speeches you do shorter sets with specific focuses) on interpretive reading. I’m planning on doing that manual several times.
So far I’ve given 13 speeches, two of which have been reading stories. I don’t think anyone in my club reads fantasy or science fiction, but they’re good sports. Maybe I can turn them into fans. (I’d love to have a whole club just for fiction writers, but I doubt we have a large enough community of interested people here to sustain it.)
Aside from helping me get over my nerves and improve my skills, trying to pare down a story or section of a story to fit into the allotted time limit is an interesting exercise in tightening things up.