The best lessons I learned (so far) in Toastmasters

Posted by on Jul 12, 2013 in Professional Development | 16 comments

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!

Toastmasters Lessons

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.

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I love your comments! Would you ever join a Toastmasters club? Why or why not?  If you’ve been a member of Toastmasters, what were your best lessons?

16 Comments

  1. Hi Chrysta,

    Great article thanks. I also joined Toastmasters just over a year ago and have found it an empowering experience. It has made me so much more confident both personally and professionally. In March I spoke to 90 strangers for 4 minutes, something I would never have done a year ago.

    I also gave a speech recently entitled “Just Do It” – my advice in the speech was don’t be afraid of what others will think of you, be it speaking, dancing, etc., just do it!

    I recommend Toastmasters for everyone. It not only teaches you how to speak, but also how to listen. It will give you a confidence that will stay with you for life.

    Thank you.

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Elaine! I always love “meeting” fellow Toastmasters! :)

      It has also been my experience that Toastmasters taught me to “Just Do It”! One of the best experiences has been to give a speech when I wasn’t 100% prepared because that’s life. I had to just do it once to get over being afraid of making a fool of myself and learn through experience that I’m capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience! Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  2. Not that I even have the time right now but I need to find me another one in my area Chrysta. I joined a number of years ago because I’m deathly afraid to speak in front of people. To the point that I throw up but my experience with the one I joined was horrible.

    I’m in kind of a ritzy part of town so apparently I just joined with a lot of people who had a stick up their a*s and were really really mean. That just made matters that much worse for me and those feelings of inadequacy that you had, mine were like triple.

    I eventually just never went back because of the way I was being treated. It’s still something I need to overcome so maybe I need to give that a try again. I would love to have this experience because this is really something I’m going to have to deal with sooner or later. Of course I’m so busy right now it’s not possible but maybe that’s a good thing. The right organization will open up closer to me and all will be good.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us and so glad it’s been good overall.

    ~Adrienne

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Adrienne!

      It’s such a shame your experience with Toastmasters wasn’t more positive because I really believe it’s a wonderful organization! But of course within a wonderful organization you can find a group of people that don’t really get the purpose and make it into something else.

      If you ever do decide to try another club I hope you have a much better experience- as you said, you will find the right club sooner or later when the opportunity is right. I can’t imagine Toastmasters not helping a member overcome any fears or anxieties about speaking in public.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  3. Wow just learning how to stop worrying what other people think of me and overcoming my fears are great reasons to join toastmasters.

    Just wondering Chrysta, do you have weekly, monthly, quarterly meetings? Also are you with the same people each time you meet?

    Liz

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Liz!

      It’s really been such a benefit to me and I can’t imagine it benefiting everyone!

      Most Toastmasters meetings are weekly, though I have heard of one that’s held bi-weekly. Generally the people at the club are the same from week-to-week. A lot of meetings get visitors but the core group remains fairly constant.

      Thanks so much for your comment! Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  4. Yay! I’m a fellow Toastmaster.

    I’ve been in my club for the past 2 1/2 years! And, the lessons you’ve learned are the exact same that I’ve learned. When I first started I couldn’t get enough of Toastmasters — I became secretary and later our club president.

    I’ve since haven’t been as involved, although I still attend the meetings. I really need to get back into it because there is a tremendous amount of benefit. I’d like to visit other clubs because I feel that I’m used to my club members. So, that might give me more of a challenge.

    I’ve also learned:
    1 – That there are times where I’m going to feel fear, but I shouldn’t let it stop me from speaking.
    2 – Better communication skills (I hosted a contest and emails & calls were extremely important!)
    3 – We are an LGBTQH club (Speak Out! Toastmasters) so I’ve really been able to learn about diverse individuals.

    It’s definitely been a top experience over the past few years. Thanks for the inspiration! I really need to get back into it with more heart!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Jennifer! So glad to hear from another Toastmaster!

      I love the lessons you’ve learned, in addition to my own. I absolutely agree with all three.

      Perhaps the best part of Toastmasters is seeing a roomful of people face their fears every meeting- it’s absolutely inspiring!

      I, too, have noticed Toastmasters has improved my verbal and written communication- everything from casual conversations to writing emails- it’s great!

      I can only imagine how empowering it must be to be in an LGBTQH club! Even in my club the backgrounds and experiences of my club members is very diverse and it’s been great getting to know people so different from me.

      I really appreciate your experience and I hope you are re-engaged in Toastmasters- it’s such a rewarding experience! Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  5. I am a HUGE fan of Toastmasters! In another life I was one of those who was terrified at the very thought of getting in front of an audience. Then one summer I was attending a national convention for a women’s business organization I belonged to and I was unexpectedly called to speak to the audience of 500 women. When I didn’t die, I decided that maybe this was something I should look into further. Long story short, I eventually discovered Toastmasters and they literally changed my life. Thanks to what I learned, and my new found confidence, I ended up changing careers and landed the best job of my life traveling around the world as a trainer and speaker on behalf of the travel industry where I live. Thanks Chrysta for the great reminder!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Marty!

      Just like you, Toastmasters has given me confidence to completely change the direction of my career. It doesn’t matter if an individual wants a career related to public speaking- the confidence gained from Toastmasters will help you in whatever you want to do!

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  6. Your message… We miss you at our club Chrysta, Loved your blog about TM. I hope to come visit you at your new club soon.

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Danon!

      I miss our club, too. I wish my new schedule made it possible for me to continue to attend our club, but I’m glad I found a club that’s just as fun! Hope to see you at a CSU TM meeting soon. :)

      Have a great day!

      Chrysta

  7. Hi, Chrysta!

    I had thought about joining Toastmasters sometime ago. I just haven’t gotten around to doing it for one reason or another. While reading this, I did a search, and it looks as though our local club is now defunct. :-( Might have to see about bringing it back somehow, especially given all the points you’ve made about its benefits.

    Thank you for sharing!

    ~Dawna

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Dawna!

      I’m sorry to hear the club in your area is no longer active- it’s a great organization and I’ve gained so much from it. My first experience in Toastmasters was chartering a new club- it was a very rewarding!

      Thanks so much for stopping by! Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  8. Hi Chrysta

    I have never been to a Toastmasters meeting, but I have heard it has been wonderful for other folks. I could see how beneficial it would be in any walk of life.

    I have listened to rehearsed speeches and most I think are not that good. What sounded great on paper, did not come across remotely funny in person. Being yourself with confidence and a few highlights to what to speak about usually translate into a more natural speech.

    I made a couple of speeches in city council meeting, but since I only had 3 minutes to say what I would have liked to have said in ten, writing it and reading made perfectly good sense. But that doesn’t really work when one is addressing a group of people.

    So glad you have found that Toastmasters has worked out well for you.

    Mary

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Mary!

      There are so many skills to be gained from Toastmasters- even just improving day-to-day communication. I’ve learned to express my thoughts and ideas more clearly and succinctly. This is one of the ways Toastmasters can benefit anyone- even people with no interest in public speaking professionally. It’s all about communication!

      You’re right about words sounding good on paper that don’t relate well in a speech or presentation. It’s unfortunate when that happens because there may be really important information being shared that isn’t fully understood or absorbed by the audience.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’m glad the speeches you gave worked out well for you. Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

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