December 5, 2011
A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending my local district Toastmasters Conference. It was a great learning and networking experience. My favorite part of the day was the session led by champion speaker Darren LaCroix, which gave me additional insights about speaking that I could never have learned at my regular club meeting.
The weekend also got me to thinking about my own situation in Toastmasters. I’ve been a member since 2004 and have made some amazing progress in my speaking and leadership skills since I first joined. But I feel like I’m still learning, still improving…so I continue my membership.
Because of this positive experience, I wanted to share six reasons I feel you should join Toastmasters. As I attend various meetings and networking events, I run into a lot of people with questions and a curiosity about Toastmasters.
Note: I know there are a great number of similar articles and blog posts written on this topic. Here’s my take…
1. You’ll become a better speaker. Yes, it’s almost obvious that by joining Toastmasters, you’ll become a better speaker. When you join Toastmasters, you receive a Competent Communicator’s manual which outlines the first ten speeches you will deliver. You’re also told that “you get out of Toastmasters what you put in.” This is a great reminder that you must put in the work and prepare for your speeches in order to become a better speaker.
I found that as I practiced and prepared for my speeches, I started to improve. By the third or fourth speech, I could feel my confidence growing. Soon after that, I became less reliant on my notes and eventually stopped using them altogether. Of course, all of us learn at a different pace and have different goals. Just know that whatever you want to accomplish, members of your club will be there to support you.
The main reason you become a better speaker is that each of your speeches is evaluated by another member of your club. This means that every time you deliver a speech, you get feedback on what you did right, what you could have done better and tips and suggestions on how to improve. A greater awareness of your weaknesses and tendencies will help you make adjustments and get better – fast.
2. You’ll become a better listener. By watching other members’ speeches and evaluating their performance, you’ll soon become a better listener. Evaluating your fellow club members forces you to really pay attention and listen carefully. This gets you into the habit of listening, absorbing and analyzing…which becomes a great learning opportunity.
Also, most Toastmaster meetings have a grammarian report where word usage is scrutinized and “ahs” and “ums” are counted. This report helps club members become aware of their use of these distracting filler words. As you become more conscious of these words, you’ll be less likely to use them yourself. A warning…eliminating all “ahs” and “ums” from your vocabulary is one of the hardest things to do.
3. You’ll develop stronger leadership skills. In addition to the opportunity to improve speaking skills, members of Toastmasters can take on leadership roles within their club. Opportunities include President, VP of Education, VP of Public Relations, VP of Membership and Treasurer. These opportunities give you an opportunity to lead your club and improve the experience of its members. These skills can be transferred to both your personal and professional life.
As you become more comfortable as a speaker and more experienced in your club, you can serve as a mentor to new members. This will help them improve more quickly and give them increased confidence.
I have served in several leadership roles in my club: VP of Public Relations, VP of Membership and Treasurer. Each of these roles has given me a great opportunity to learn. I know this experience has helped me and will guide me in future opportunities and other areas of my life.
4. Joining Toastmasters will help improve your job interview skills. I keep telling this to everyone I meet who’s under and unemployed. The process of practicing your speech and making sure it’s clear and concise will help you in your interviews.
In the same way you practice a clear, concise delivery of your speeches, I recommend that you practice clear, concise answers to interview questions. I know that this has helped me walk into interviews feeling more confident in my ability to talk about my background and tell quick stories of my accomplishments.
5. Joining Toastmasters will help you think on your feet. Each Toastmasters club has a part of the meeting known as “Table Topics.” During this part, the Table Topics Master lays out a scenario and calls members of the club to the lectern to respond to the statement or answer a question. You might be asked something as simple and fun as “what is your favorite summer vacation memory?” or something complex such as “what should the United States do to solve the current economic crisis?”
The key is to listen carefully and be ready to be called in case you are asked to share. This impromptu and improvisational speaking opportunity will help prepare you for moments of uncertainty in other parts of your life.
6. You’ll expand your network. Toastmasters is a great way to meet new, interesting and successful people. Since joining Toastmasters, I have met many new friends and acquaintances in a wide range of industries. These friends have helped me out in more ways than I can describe and many have become mentors to me. I’ve also had plenty of opportunities to help them, as well.
If all of this sounds intriguing, I invite you to visit Toastmasters.org for more information and to click on the red “find a club near you” button to find out about clubs in your area. Good luck and I’d love to hear about how Toastmasters has helped you.
Flickr Creative Commons photo courtesy of Ross Tsai.