I can attest to this personal growth and after 30 years, I am still reaping its benefits.
I have been a Toastmaster for close to thirty years. Though my progress in public speaking has been slow due to my own degree of participation, I have improved markedly over the last few years.
Now, I do not dread taking up speech projects when asked. I am more aware of the requirements of the speech and have often met its objectives which is part of the training of Toastmasters. Most important, I have managed to let go of my crutch which is my script or my notes. By doing that, I have learnt to control my fear of public speaking, appear more authentic and courageous by engaging the audience as well as ad lib where necessary. I have not fainted as feared because of the loss of words sometimes.
I am glad that I did not give up on this activity and unlikely to ever do so. Some of us are old timers, mostly in their fifties and sixties and are still reaping the joy and benefits of being Toastmasters. There are good reasons if you would read on….
Real stories of members
1 Member A lost her job recently but was able to secure a new job although she was already in her sixties. During her job interview, she stood out among her younger contenders. She knew that her chances were slim but she is capable. Being a long time Toastmaster had built her self confidence, mindfulness and poise. She told the interviewers after the discussion, “ Please do not judge me by my age but by my performance” . She got the job and have proven her worth since. She attributed a large part of her success to Toastmasters activity.
2 Another senior member B is nearing seventy years old. She is still working in the financial sector and doing well. She has won awards and company trips. She has attributed her success in her career to being a Toastmaster too. The public speaking skills acquired have helped her in doing sincere and succinct presentation to her clients. Not forgetting the listening skills that are developed when you participate in the club. When there is clarity, there is understanding of her products and services.
3 I have also watched new Toastmasters who are not that articulate when they first joined the club. But they have persistence and passion to achieve the ability to communicate well with the audience. Though English language may not be their mother tongue, yet at least three of them became champions in our club speech contests at different times beating the native speakers.
4 It was personal growth that I have gained. I have become less self conscious and am able to articulate my points in a more organized manner though I think that there is still plenty of room for improvement in terms of persuasiveness. It is a knack that will take more time to acquire and I only have myself to blame for not being more active in my club’s program in my earlier years. I feel that I am having a nice career. Aside from doing my best clinically, I am able to explain to my patients in a very clear and systematic way so that they would understand their condition and treatment. So far, my clinical sessions have been smooth going.
Why Toastmasters is so effective and beneficial
Like my fellow members, I must credit Toastmasters activity to my full development as a better communicator and the reasons are as follows-
1 A very good club environment where members come from diverse backgrounds so there is so much to learn in one meeting. A fantastic networking opportunity as well and a ready positive audience.
2 A very comprehensive program with guidance from structured manuals. This enables the members to grow at their own pace- You hastened your own progress if you volunteer to take on speech projects more regularly and prepare diligently. The projects also have increasing levels of difficulty which is a good challenge to attain greater heights in presentation.
3 A mentor- mentee system where the mentor could hone his critical judging skills to advise his mentee in a constructive and sensitive manner. The mentee receives very useful feedback from an experienced member and feels supported to achieve his goals.
4 A toastmaster that takes part in the Chapter meetings has a chance to play a different role each time and build up different significant skills. The role players for the evening range from;
a) Sergeant at arms who starts the club meetings rolling and gets everyone warmed up with a short speech on a certain theme. He or she also takes care of the logistics.
b) The emcee who is the Toastmasters of the evening introduces the speakers and ensure that the club meetings run according to the program sheet.
c) The table topics master dishes out topics for members to speak extemporaneously so that we all learn to speak off the cuff . With constant practice, we could organize our ideas with a good message to boot.
d) The timer-keeper keeps track of the time each speaker has taken so that each speaker speaks within the time allotted and the meeting ends on time.
e) The ah counter counts fillers which are unnecessary time wasters like ‘Um”, “ you see” and so on. Members are fined S$1 if more than five fillers are uttered to add to the club’s coffers.
e) A few project speakers are appointed for the meeting and they are expected to deliver their prepared speeches.
f) Evaluators who are usually experienced Toastmasters are appointed to give feedback on the speakers for their further improvement. As they say, “ One may be too close to the forest to see the trees” and most speakers do not see their own flaws such as a speech content or delivery flaw or poor gestures and postures or lack of.
g) Language Evaluator or Grammarian would evaluate the use or misuse of the English language so that all members would be encouraged not to make the same mistakes again in terms of grammar, syntax, words choice, pronunciation, etc. I feel that Toastmasters activity is an extension of learning English in schools in a more in-depth manner.
h) The General evaluator gives feedback on the whole night’s proceedings such as how the meeting is being run, the performance by role players, the food and add if any to the constructive feedback of any speakers as well as make further suggestions for future meetings.
i) We must not forget the President of the club who has the privilege of being a leader and has the duty of giving the opening speech as well as the closing address. He or she would have the opportunity of giving at least twenty speeches in his or her term. The improvement becomes obvious for each president as I have witnessed over the years. It was my term as the club’s President that I learnt to lose my script or crutch as I called it, feeling better than ever. I also develop the increasing ease with which I could craft a seven minute speech. It is the training that comes with the duty of this role.
j) Aside from the individual responsibility as a member, the club has an exco committee that meets regularly to plan events for its members. Here, we groom ourselves into leaders and organizers. The club activities could evolve and a new committee is formed each year under a new President (committee members may volunteer for another role such as treasurer or secretary, etc) and the club could continue to benefit its members and new comers.
1 Due to the need to prepare for the project speeches, the member has to read more. This can only be beneficial as one has to put on the thinking cap. Reading is often neglected once a person graduates from school. He or she becomes involved only with the job and hobby and have forgotten that the greatest treasure and wisdom lies in reading. Being a Toastmaster will revive this need and develop the interest. This greatly helps in writing a good speech content.
2 Aside from learning and delivering the presentation skills, subtle improvements such as time keeping of one’s speech is acquired. This is very important as I have come across speakers who have no respect for the time allotted to them and allowed their presentation to eat into the audience’s breaktime. The audience have by then already tuned him or her out!
There was once, the speaker before me took 30 minutes of my speech time and hence dinner was further delayed following my presentation. I condensed my speech which became hurried but I had to alleviate the situation by telling everyone that I understood that our sugar levels were getting low and to bear with me while I tried to be concise. The audience laughed.
3 Toastmasters club provides many roles. When a member emcees the meeting, he or she learns to rise to the occasion with grace. He introduces the speaker appropriately and make sure that the lectern is properly handed over to the next speaker. There is smooth transition from one speaker to another and also between different parts of the program. The Toastmaster of the evening as we call him or her can make or break the meeting. This is a very important skill that is often needed in corporate meetings and therein lies the secret training available in our club!
4 You may think that you are not cut for public speaking. I used to think so too. As a dentist, my opportunity to speak outside my field is limited. We do not jaw enough, so to speak. Hence, my decision to join Toastmasters and it is the best thing that I have done in my life. Building self confidence, a new skill and developing the sense of well being are just some things money cannot buy.
5 An astute listener and critical thinker is what you may become. Since you need to evaluate your speaker, you must learn to listen well and observe their manner of delivery. Listening is key to a successful negotiation in business too. By listening with a heart and thinking critically so that you can give a constructive feedback to your fellow member for him to perform better is the best gift . These acquired traits would also make your family happy too as you become more mindful and sensitive to others.
Begin your journey with Toastmasters International now. I am not appealing for this action with any commercial benefits involved but purely out of the good that Toastmasters has done for me. I want to spread this great activity that is the brainchild of Ralph Smedley and you can read about how this movement have benefited countless all over the world.
Public Speaking is as necessary as the need to be able to swim to survive in the water. In the corporate world, the people with the ideas and the communication skills to advocate them are the winners. But to put forth your knowledge in an impressive and succinct manner simply makes one unbeatable.
Are you afraid of speaking in public
Do you notice people who can speak well do well too?
Do you wish to communicate your ideas in an impressive manner?
Do you want to make a difference but am held back by the lack of skills in speaking?
There are Toastmasters club in 143 countries today. Find out in your community.
As Nike says, “ Do it now”