Toastmasters is, by far, the most enjoyable and engaging professional organization I’ve had the pleasure to be part of. Every meeting I learn and grow with a lot of laughs and fun in the process!
I’ve been a member of Toastmasters International for 1 1/2 years and in that time I’ve gotten so much more out of Toastmasters than I anticipated. The benefits of Toastmasters goes well beyond communication and leadership. The best lessons I’ve learned in Toastmasters have helped me be more confident, polished, and have more fun doing it!
The best lessons I’ve learned (so far) in Toastmasters
How to think on my feet
Toastmasters has taught me how to think on my feet- from giving an impromptu speech during Table Topics, to filling-in for a meeting role when visiting another club, to recovering quickly from a flub. Toastmasters has taught me how to present myself in almost any situation with humor and aplomb.
Recently I gave a professional presentation for which I had not adequately prepared. I would have liked to have been better prepared, of course, but sometimes life gets in the way of my best laid plans. Without Toastmasters I would have made an excuse to back out at the last minute (*cough* I’m sick *cough*), or stayed up all night to prepare and still not given a decent presentation. Fortunately I did neither. Instead, I spent less than an hour preparing the morning of the presentation and pulled it off without a hitch. It may not have been the best example of my work, but it was good enough and my audience enjoyed my presentation.
How to stop worrying what other people think of me
Every meeting Toastmasters members give feedback to each other- both verbal and written. Getting that feedback every meeting not only helps me grow, it has helped me get comfortable being on the receiving end of feedback and I learned how to stop taking every person’s feedback personally.
When I first started in Toastmasters I received prickly feedback at several meetings- each time I felt a twinge of self-doubt that lingered for hours or days. With time, it became easier to separate the prickly feedback from the motivating feedback. Like all things in life I learned to take what I like and leave the rest. Now when I get up to speak in a meeting I don’t worry about what other people will think- I apply feedback that’s helpful and let go of feedback that’s not.
How to overcome my fears
Around 75% of people experience some fear, anxiety, or nervousness when public speaking. When you consider Toastmasters has over 280,000 members, that’s a lot of people doing the very thing they fear on a regular basis! The encouraging, supportive, and motivating environment at Toastmasters makes it easier for members like me to do the very thing they are afraid of. Challenging myself to overcome my fears has helped me be less afraid of facing my fear.
When I started in Toastmasters I was terrified of making a mistake with everyone’s eyes on me. I feared flubbing a speech (yep, that happened), making a mistake performing a meeting role (that happened, too), or getting up to speak and drawing a blank (you guessed it, that happened). Every time I got up to speak, even when I made mistakes, I became less afraid, and more confident. In the end it’s not really about how well I did, but simply that I did it.
How to have fun being myself
At any given Toastmasters meeting there’s a variety of personalities, beliefs, and backgrounds and that’s what makes Toastmasters meetings fun and interesting. Being myself is what makes me successful in Toastmasters!
When I started Toastmasters I was afraid people just wouldn’t like me for who I am. In a group of bloggers or geeks or nerds I feel comfortable being myself- but a room of regular people- no way! (As if we all aren’t regular people.) As a new Toastmasters I shied away from personal stories for fear others wouldn’t relate or like me. I slowly began to just be myself and the response was overwhelmingly positive- not because every person liked me but because I can only be my best when I’m being me! I learned to have fun being myself.