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Watch: 3 Tips from the Toastmasters

Public speaking club offers practical advice for giving a speech.


Research has shown that people fear public speaking more than they fear death. Meet a group of people working to conquer that fear.

The First Avenue Speakers is a group that recently formed at CSL Behring in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, by members of the Global Clinical Safety and Pharmacovigilance team. The group is a chartered Toastmasters International club, joining the ranks of more than 16,800 clubs in 143 countries. Toastmasters International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching public speaking and leadership skills.

Velma Kay Hurst, Principal Clinical Safety Scientist at CSL Behring, explains her motivation for starting the club was to help strengthen her own communication skills and help others interested in doing the same. “I know that in order to be successful in my career and even outside of my career, it's important for me to strengthen my communication skills,” she said. “Public speaking is such an important skill to have. It's very important for your growth as an individual as well as a professional.”

David Paczkowski, Manager, Learning & Development at CSL Behring, agrees. “When you think about the complexity of how many things can be misunderstood or perceived incorrectly, it makes me think about how much we need to focus on improving communications as an aspect of our commitment to diversity – in this case thought diversity,” he said.

Paczkowski appreciates when employees such as those who formed the Toastmasters Club take responsibility for their own development. “I think it is primary example of how serious our employees value their commitment to growing their careers as we build upon our capacity to serving our patient focus,” he said. “Talent Management has spent quite a bit of time creating programs to support development. It is great to see that momentum build with proactive efforts like this one.”

Hurst shared some tips for people looking to improve their public speaking skills.

  • Motivate yourself – whether it’s meditation or a listening to a special song, pick something that can help you feel grounded and relaxed before making your speech.

  • Practice your speech multiple times -- including practicing in front of a mirror.

  • Be kind to yourself. Realize that you are likely your biggest critic and relax.