About a year ago, I saw an interesting sign at the neighborhood coffee shop. It said “Toastmasters meets here”. That was all of the information I had to go off of. Toastmasters sounds cool. Add the word masters to anything and it sounds cool. So after arriving home, I checked it out.
The timing of this event was perfect. I am quite goal-driven and was looking for another goal to pursue. The goals that were for running were all accomplished. It is time to take on a task that allows me to grow professionally. After having checked out what Toastmasters is about, there was no doubt in my mind that it fit exactly into what I had envisioned my next set of goals being. The Toastmasters mission statement says it best: “The mission of a Toastmasters club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every individual member has the opportunity to develop oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.”
It is difficult to find people who really want to stand up in front of peers and give a speech. It is even harder to find people who are willing to admit that it is a hard thing to do and they need to work on that skill. The people at my local club are what makes the experience worth while. The type of people who are drawn to want to work on the difficult and powerful skills of communication and leadership are my kind of people. They are seldom found outside of the enclosed work environment. When I attended the Toastmasters meeting for the first time, I found that everyone who was there was exceptional and wanted to make the most of the experience. This was the greatest part of the whole experience. Being around great people makes me want to be more than I am. They inspire me.
The goal that has come of this is to complete the ten speeches found in the Competent Communicator book. The process is described in detail here (there are also links to other people’s speeches). To this date, I am three speeches down and seven to go. In ten day’s time, I will have given my fourth speech.
Why? Writing and giving speeches is hard to do when it is voluntary. Pushing myself to work on these skill when I have no idea if they will pay off is madness. But, honestly, I can already tell a difference in the way I communicate in just a few short months. In meetings, I am more aware of what I am saying and if people understand or care. I am careful to open and close thoughts and structure them in a way people will understand. I look people in the eyes and don’t lose my train of thought when they look back (that is still tough).
If you are searching for a challenge, looking for good people to hang around with, and want to work on the very important skills of communication and leadership, then you should look to see if you have a local Toastmasters club!