What is this Toastmasters thing I keep talking about? And what’s the big deal anyhow? Isn’t just people standing up and doing speeches all night long?

My Background as a Public Speaker

I have been developing my skills as a speaker since I was very young.  It is definitely something that runs in my family, so I had the chance to be exposed to speaking and performance at an early age. Just like anything in life though, I was not born a great speaker. The thousands of hours I have spent practicing and speaking in front of others have helped me to reach the level I am at today.  As a child and teen, I participated in speech competitions, theatre, musical theatre and even had the chance to present on a weekly basis in my 5th grade class. As an adult, I have worked in many different roles, and I always tried to find a way to do presentations in my role, no matter what it was. I’ve spent the last4 1/2 years working in Network Marketing, which has given me the opportunity to present different business plans over a hundred times to groups from 1-2 people, to over 300 people last year.

Why Toastmasters?

Ever had that moment when you feel like you’re in the right place, at the right time? Everything just seems to fit and you feel like your search is over? That’s how I felt when I attended my first meeting of Trafalgar Toastmasters in May of 2009.  Even though I already had a great deal of experience speaking, I joined for several reasons.  First, one of my goals is to become a world-renown public speaker, and in order to do so, I wanted to learn from those with more experience and skill than I already have.  Second, I also wanted the opportunity to give back and to help others who are developing their skills as a speaker. This club has turned out to be a great place to achieve both these goals.

When you first join the club, one of the first speeches you prepare is called the Icebreaker. It’s exactly what the name says – a way to break the ice and give those in the club a chance to get to know you.  This is one of my favorite speeches to listen to, I really enjoy getting to know the different people in our club.  We have a very dynamic and fun group, with people from all different backgrounds, countries, businesses, jobs, ages – basically an eclectic representation of the population of Oakville/Burlington. I have a great deal of respect for those members who are a part of the club to work on their English, it’s challenging enough to stand up to speak in your native tongue, let alone in a new language.

The Program and Evaluation Process

Toastmasters International is an amazing organization.  There is a comprehensive program to be followed as travel on your journey in Toastmasters.  The first manual is called Competent Communicator, and it is a collection of 10 different speeches to be performed and evaluated by a member of your Toastmasters group.  You learn different skills with each speech and build on skills from previous projects as you progress through the manual.  One of the most valuable parts of the process is the evaluation you receive immediately after completing your speech.  It is a live, oral evaluation, by a specific person that has been making notes throughout your speech.  They provide good, solid feedback, share your strong points and successes, as well as offering two or three points to improve on.  Even better, the rest of the members of the club have a chance to write a few comments on a slip of paper that you can take home with you.  I have kept all of my slips of paper since I started – if I ever feel down, I just open the envelope and read some of the comments because they are usually so positive and provide great feedback.  Feedback is so powerful when you are trying to improve your skills, and I welcome positive, constructive feedback in any role I do.

The Value of a Mentor

One of the skills I have learned through Network Marketing is how to become a good mentor.  In Toastmasters, you have the opportunity to mentor new members when they join the club.  This has allowed me to fulfill the second half of my goal for Toastmasters, which to give back and help others to develop their skills. I enjoy working with my group of mentees and it’s always great to see them achieve new things, take risks and succeed at their next speech.

A Bit of Friendly Competition

Ok, I’ll admit it publicly, I’m a little bit competitive. Many of you are probably laughing out loud right now at this comment.  When I had my numerology chart done last year, it turns out that there are 2 parts of my “car” that are a #1 – which is the strong, driven, innovator number and the most competitive.  It’s just a part of who I am, and I happily accept it and work with it!  There are several competitions throughout the year, first at the club level and then moving on to the District and Division levels.  It’s great to have the chance to compete and the feedback and experience is well worth it.  I have signed up to compete in the International Speech competition at the end of February.  I am looking forward to the challenge, as our club has many excellent and polished speakers.

New Friendships

The most valuable thing I have gained through Toastmasters are the new friendships and relationships I have created. Not only have I met so many great people, but I have been able to solidify friendships with people whom I introduced our club to and we now see each other every week.  Our club has a real sense of community and I very grateful for that.

Come out and see for yourself – we meet every Monday evening, from 7:15- 9:15 at the Oakville Central Library. Please rsvp to me directly and arrive early – our club is very full and we usually fill up all of the space!!

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