How well does an improvement in public speaking transfer over to normal conversation scenarios such as meeting people? (Something I'm also very nervous about)
I love your question about transferring to normal conversation scenarios. I have seen huge improvements with people when they practice public speaking, they become much more confident in a whole variety of social situations.
Not to get too technical, but there is actually a mechanism in the brain that generalizes fear to other similar situations. That's why fear of speaking in public can then spill over into lots of social situations like dating, job interviewing, networking, etc. The good news, is that the same brain mechanism also generalizes confidence to similar situations (so developing confidence in public speaking will spill over into other social situations).
In fact, the top social anxiety treatment centers (like the Adult Anxiety Clinic, Temple University) uses public speaking as the main form of treatment for social anxiety. One reason is that public speaking anxiety is a type of social anxiety (same root cause). The other reason is that, because public speaking is one of the more challenging social situations, developing confidence in that area will help you in all of them.
I started the FREE SpeakMeister.com program to help people with social anxiety. There are a lot of people with social anxiety who find Toastmasters too big of a step. They need a smaller step. SpeakMeister.com is that smaller step. It's where you can desensitize from social anxiety and public speaking phobia.
If you're interested in this, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It's a new program and we're building momentum, and it will help to know you're interested!