Public speaking and leadership skills can be safely practiced at an organization called Toastmasters – I was a member of (and even helped create) several clubs for about ten years, and created and practiced many speeches.

So what are those speeches about..? As long as your speech ideas map to a practice project with specific objectives from one of the various speech type manuals they provide, just about any topic you can think of will do the trick – although it’s generally a good idea to stay away from politics and religion… basically anything that has the potential to divide the audience or cause brawls 🙂

Most speeches are between 5-7 minutes, and various support roles during a meeting provide help – e.g. a Timer providing color/light signals, an „Ah“-counter keeping track of annoying filler words like „Ah“, „Um“, „like“, pauses, etc., a Grammarian who looks out for great use of rhetoric devices (e.g. metaphors, analogies, similes) or opportunities to express something more eloquently, and most importantly, an Evaluator who provides subjective, and constructive feedback to help the speaker understand how the speech was perceived, what could have been said or structured differently to perhaps make it more effective, and what worked particularly well. Role assignments rotate with every meeting.

Over time you not only become a better speaker, but also much less nervous in any kind of situations – with or without audiences. Those are qualities I still benefit from today.

Toastmasters is a safe speech practice environment, and also provides opportunities to practice leadership at club level and the bigger organizational structure around it.
I can highly recommend that organization and would re-join a club in a heartbeat (if there was one near me and I had the time – my interests and time-intensive activities have shifted a bit by now).