Fifteen years ago I joined Toastmasters. At the time it was for a combination of improving my public speaking skills and to do some networking. I enjoyed it and would recommend it the experience anyone. After a year or two at the club, I moved to a small town that didn’t have a club so I wasn’t able to attend… and then I forgot about the experience altogether.
But recently a client mentioned that he was attending Toastmasters and it reminded me of the positive experience I had when I first attended. Now that my wife and I once again live in a larger urban center, I checked online and there are many Toastmaster groups, including one that meets at a really convenient time just down the street from me.
So I showed up at the meeting and was immediately reminded why I love Toastmasters. The group was welcoming and friendly, very inclusive, and totally devoted to mutual improvement. I’m definitely rejoining.
So, what is Toastmasters? It’s funny because I think the average person, if they hear the name, might vaguely think that we sit around and do toasts and practice speeches. But it’s really about personal improvement.
The meetings are somewhat formal (there are introductions and the minutes of the last meeting are read) and yet they’re informal enough that it doesn’t feel stuffy. We introduce ourselves, we do have speeches but we also practice impromptu speeches, we evaluate our presentations, and we learn new things.
When I first attended 15 years ago, it was to practice my public speaking skills and for networking, and those are reasons that I’m going back. But there’s more this time ’round: it’s to receive feedback on how I present; it’s to learn new things; it’s to improve some leadership and management skills (which are getting rusty because I run my own biz); it’s to brush up on Robert’s Rules Of Order (which I abhor but understand the importance of); and eventually it might lead to a position of leadership in the group where I can hone my skills of public relationship, financial management, etc. Toastmasters exposes me to a number of scenarios that I’m encountering in my life that I need to improve (such as impromptu speaking opportunities and additional volunteer leadership roles).
If you have a Toastmasters group in your area, you should check it out. You can try it out for free (there are dues when you become a member but they’ll welcome you to at least check them out at no cost).
It’s something I really look forward to each week!