Why Toastmasters ?

What’s the reality of why I belong to Toastmasters? The name refers to the person who stands up in a group, raises a glass of welcome, and introduces a speaker, or wishes a bridal couple good fortune. Although we don’t raise the glass, the point of TM is to teach people to be comfortable speaking in public, and more importantly, develop Leadership skills.

Social group: I’m a writer, and I work alone. To prevent me from going stir-crazy and completely losing any social skills I had ever acquired, my  Toastmasters meeting Fridays at noon in Santa Clara gives me a second family, of varying of attendance; I hear how their lives are going, I watch them improve, help guide the meeting, and all those things I haven’t had a chance to practice since last week.

Helen at the podium

Leadership push: One thing Toastmasters has taught me is—I’m not perfect, I need to improve—in all kinds of ways. I started back in 2006, hanging onto the podium because my knees were knocking so hard I was afraid the audience could hear. After 30 plus speeches the knocking is less audible*but interestingly enough, it’s the Leadership that’s taken me into unchartered territory. Working within a corporation I led a team, but they were paid to be there. Volunteers are a completely different endeavor. As a freelance writer, I had no one to lead, nothing to practice on, and anyway, I didn’t know how to get results. Espescially when people could turn up at meetings or not, follow their own agendas or that of the club, abandon goals willy-nilly, and generally not follow the program. Not a happy prospect.

So I had to learn the tricky balance between letting people find whatever it was that motivated them, and keep them pointed in the right direction. TM is wonderful in that —unlike the rest of life, there’s a plan. If you follow the plan, you’ll get results. So finding what each individual had in mind by joining, by offering a smorgasbord of choices, programs and meeting formats throughout the year, we can collectively move forward this flock of errant individualists towards their dreams. Me included.

*Here’s my Toastmaster count so far:

10 Speeches to earn Competent Communicator

5 in Advanced Storytelling to start working on Advanced

5 in Entertaining Speeches

5 in Speaking to Inform

2 in Specialty Speeches

High Performance Leadership to gain experience in running a team

2 in Better Speaker series ; running a Speechcraft Program, Moments of Truth

PLUS all those Leadership roles consisting of facilitating parts of a meeting, learning how to run a club contest, becoming a contest chairperson, and mentoring an existing member.Eventually, with the help of a mentor, becoming Area Governor in 2009 and 2010

Pause to take a deep breath, because I’m getting to the point here.

TV Possibilities: Although I’d had TV training in an earlier life, it had been behind the camera, not in front of it. When I realized that as a published author I would be expected to have the hot TV lights trained on me, I quailed. Me? Give an interview? With people watching? Not on your life.

Baby steps, TM provided baby steps. My first efforts were in one of our noon-time meetings when the club met in Sun Microsystem’s Menlo Park. I did everything wrong but it was OK, I was among friends. Next challenge was to host a program on local TV which no one ever watched. A fellow Toastmaster came to the studio to be my Evaluator. We haven’t managed to put together an interesting group discussion due to scheduling and production difficulties, but the moment is sure to arrive.

Meanwhile, there are other challenges within the club. See our Toastmasters website at http://speakeasyatsun.org

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One Response to Why Toastmasters ?

  1. Nice blog post. I agree 100%. For me, Toastmasters enables me to analyze myself and what’s important. It forces me to think in a world that is too rushed…

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