Whenever I tell people that I'm a speaker I usually get one of two reactions. One is a reaction of interest with a comment like "Oh really, what do you speak about?" The other reaction that I get is one of fear and the response I hear is "Ugh, speaking in front of people, I could never do that!" I always come back by telling them that anyone can be a good speaker with help from Toastmasters. Toastmasters International is a communication and leadership organization that is built around public speaking. The purpose is to teach better communication skills to those who want to improve. I joined Toastmasters about 2 years ago because I wanted to practice my speaking skills. Toastmaster International holds some speaking competitions every year that start at the club level and end at the World Championship of Speaking. I did very well in the speaking competitions that I entered and it was a great learning experience. I would say that there are 5 major advantages to becoming a Toastmaster regardless if you are a prolific speaker or if your heart rate quickens at just the thought of speaking in public.
1. ATMOSPHERE- Toastmaster International is about learning. The clubs provide an encouraging environment so that those who are not accustom to speaking can feel at ease. With portions of the meeting like table topics, the meetings are often fun and filled with excitement.
2. CONFIDENCE- Although the organization is built on improving presentation skills, confidence can be built by hosting a meeting, holding a position in a club district or division office, or just being around individuals who want to improve their communication skills and more importantly want you to improve your communication skills as well.
3. PACE- As a member you can choose from a variety of speaking manuals that you want to complete. The manuals have speaking projects in them that you complete at your own pace. I finished my first manual in 6 months but there are some who have been members for years and have not completed their fist manual yet. The good news is there is no time limit or pressure to complete a manual because the objective is to learn at your own pace.
4. MENTORS- If they choose, new members can have a mentor. The mentor is usually a seasoned Toastmaster who will help the newbie with their first projects and answer any questions the new member may have. I think this is a great piece to the Toastmaster experience. And as a mentor, there is nothing greater than seeing someone who was once afraid to speak, stand confidently in front of an audience.
5. LEADERSHIP- It is virtually impossible to become a Toastmaster and not become a better leader. When hosting a meeting you learn how to organize and control an event. As an officer you learn how to make decisions concerning your club or district. As an evaluator you learn how to critic others while encouraging them to be better.
There is so much more to Toastmaster International that in order to understand fully you'll have to attend a meeting. I've meet so many people and learn so much about myself that I think it would be a mistake for people miss out on such a valuable experience.
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