Why Join Toastmasters
by Thomas E. Kenny
ETP Professional member since 2008, founder of ETP Jersey Shore Networking Group and Lamplighter Newsletter contributing writer.
When many hear the name Toastmasters they may think it’s just about presenting a toast. Not many know that Toastmasters International has helped 4 Million people over 87 years to improve their communications and leadership skills.
The first Toastmasters meeting was held in the basement of a YMCA in Santa Ana, California in 1924 by Ralph Smedley. Since those humble beginning so long ago, this non-profit educational organization has grown to its current state of over 270,000 members of 12,000 clubs in 106 countries!
I became a member of Toastmasters after I realized I wasn’t as comfortable and as effective a leader as I could be for ETP’s Jersey Shore Networking Group. I took Rod Colon’s advice to consider join-ing Toastmasters and in 3 quick years I find I’ve not only improved my public speaking skills but my leadership skills as well.
When I joined the AT&T Middletown Toastmasters club I didn’t know what to expect but I knew I wanted to improve and happily discovered that to be a common bond with other members of the club.
When visiting a club you should keep in mind that each club is different. Some adhere strictly to formal procedures while some are loose and more fun loving. Some clubs are very ambitious toward achieving goals while others maybe more laid back. So please don’t discount the whole organization upon visiting just one club. There is probably another club nearby that suits your needs more closely. You can even form your own club made up of your friends and acquaintances!
When you join Toastmasters you can request a Mentor to help you get started. However, the Toastmasters program is focused on self-paced learning by practicing what you learn in the manuals you are provided as part of your membership.
The first communication manual you receive is called the Competent Communicator and has 10 speech projects. The first project is aptly named the Ice Breaker which is your 4 to 6 minute introduction to your club. After each speech you receive a supportive 2 to 3 minute oral evaluation to provide you feedback on what you have done well and are-as of improvement. In many clubs you’ll also get written feedback from other club members attending the meeting. The next 9 speeches cover techniques such as: speech organization, body language, vocal variety, persuading, inspiring, et cetera.
In Toastmasters you also have an opportunity to develop your leadership skills during the meetings for which you don’t have a speaking role. The Competent Leader manual contains 10 projects consisting of various meeting roles such as, being the Toastmaster (Emcee), General Evaluator (leads the evaluation team), Table Topics Master (facilitates 2 minute impromptu speaking), to just name a few of the many meeting roles. Serving in these meeting roles help you enhance your skills to conduct effective and efficient meetings.
There are advanced level awards as well once you complete your first 10 projects. Actually there are 75 different advanced speech projects to choose from. In categories such as, Technical Presentations, Persuasive Speaking, Storytelling, The Professional Speaker, and many more topics.
One of my speech coaches — Darren LaCroix — frequently states, “Toastmasters is the best place to make mistakes.” I believe this is true because every member has been there before you. I’ve found Toastmasters to be a warm and supportive environment to learn, improve and practice your speaking and leadership skills. It is an environment where I’ve learned from many and I have an opportunity to give back.
A great side effect of being a member of a Toastmasters club is that the reciprocity that occurs within the club is an ideal environment for enhancing your network with like minded people who are focused on self-improvement as well as helping others.
I’m currently working on advanced manuals to further improve my skills. I’m also enjoying giving back to my club as VP of Education to advise members on setting and achieving their Toastmasters educational goals.
Decades ago, as a young IT professional, I used to be happy to just be the wizard (behind the curtain) who makes the magic happen. I now understand that to be successful in the information age, we need to effectively inform, persuade, communicate and lead. I’m glad that Toastmasters is here to help us and even if you have the best skills, I’m sure Toastmasters can help you get to the next level!
To find a Toastmasters club that is right for you visit www.toastmasters.org or please feel free to contact me via thomas.e.kenny[AT]gmail[DOT]com
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