The last few weeks have been exceptionally busy with the kids going back to school and sports/dance starting up again. Finding the time to blog has been a challenge. The one thing I have not stopped is attending my weekly Toastmasters meeting. Since I last wrote on 22 August 2018, I have given my Ice Breaker speech and served as the Toastmaster, or lead for the overall meeting.
I learned five valuable lessons since becoming an official Toastmaster that I hope will help new or aspiring Toastmasters.
- Be prepared. Prepare for your Toastmaster’s role several days in advance of the meeting. There is no shortage of resources to help you. Start by asking your club’s officers for guidance. They are more than willing to help point you in the right direction, answer questions and explain the club’s protocol. In addition, there are plenty of videos, tutorials, and sample scripts you can reference from various clubs on YouTube and the Toastmasters site.
- Volunteer for all of your club’s roles. Our Vice President of Education assigns us roles with increasing responsibility. New members start with the Ah-Counter role and then progressively fill more challenging roles like the Timer, Grammarian, Table Topics Master, and Toastmaster, in that order. Once you have given 3 speeches, you can serve as a speech evaluator for someone else. If your club does not assign roles and simply takes volunteers, consider following the same path. Before you know it, you will be comfortable filling all roles which will help when a person is absent and the Toastmaster of the Day needs to call on you to fill a role.
- Participate in every table topics session. Our club is small so we all participate in the table topic session no matter what role we are filling or if we gave a speech that day. This portion of the meeting is led by the Table Topics Master who gives you a topic, quote, question or image after which you talk about it for up to 2 minutes with no preparation. This portion of the meeting helps you think on your feet and forces you to share your ideas or argument in a logical manner. To give you an idea, my table topic question for today was, “Why should we celebrate green lights?” I used to be so nervous for table topics yet the more I do them, the easier they get. If you want to quickly improve your public speaking skills, always participate in table topics.
- Prioritize your speeches. Talk to your Vice President of Education about prescheduling your future speeches so that you are forced to stay on track. I pre-scheduled mine every four weeks which gives me one to two weeks to research and write the speech and another two weeks to practice it.
- Attend every meeting. If you allow yourself to miss a meeting, especially when you first start out, you will be even more nervous when you go back. Set yourself up for success and show up.
When I leave my weekly Toastmasters meeting, I find that I am more confident. I have begun starting conversations with people I don’t know and have assumed roles outside of the club that I would have shied away from previously. This change is after 5 weeks of being an official member. Imagine the difference six months or a year of toastmaster meetings will make!
I have been so inspired by Toastmasters that I established some new goals. I plan to become a club officer, give a speech every four weeks, and participate in a Toastmasters competition. I can’t say enough good things about Toastmasters! I feel like I am finally breaking out of my introverted shell. If I can do it, you can too!
Don’t let the fear of public speaking hold you back from what you were meant to do in life. Take control of that fear and shape it into something meaningful.