Toastmaster Success Story: My First Unplanned “Toast”

Today, I attended a retirement lunch for a colleague who has helped me tremendously over the last five years. After the initial formalities and awards, the host opened the floor to comments from the11717619ad12dc4901d44f979c82023b--faces.jpg audience. 

After the fifth person spoke, I mustered up enough courage to participate. I power walked to the front of the room so as not to change my mind, told a story about how we met and how much he helped me over the years. 

In true Toastmasters style, I managed to avoid all ahs, ums and filler words. I even had the room laughing at one point, I made eye contact with everyone in the room, and used gestures. My Toastmasters club would be so proud!

I was thrilled that I found the confidence to publicly explain how much someone meant to me, instead of hiding in the corner wishing I had said something.

This was a huge confidence booster for me! Never in a million years would I have given a “toast” before joining Toastmasters two months ago. If I had, it would have been thoroughly rehearsed and I would have stressed about it for days or weeks beforehand. The table topics sessions are clearly working! 

I share this small success story as proof that Toastmasters does in fact work. If Toastmasters can help a person like me, who has avoided public speaking for the better part of 30 years, it can do the same for you.

I challenge you to visit your local Toastmasters Club and consider joining. You won’t regret it! You might even discover a new and improved YOU!

Once you visit a club, let me know what you thought. I would love to know!

Cheers!

Five Tips for New and Aspiring Toastmasters

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 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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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.

If you have a dream, start now! Carpe diem!

If you have a dream, start now.

If you can’t start now, start tomorrow.

Don’t put off your dreams any longer. Time will pass anyway. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish in one month.

Since my last blog post, I have attended four Toastmaster meetings as an official Toastmaster and two additional meetings as a guest. I filled the role of Ah-Counter, Grammarian, Timer, Table Topics master and volunteered to do several table topics. I am giving my Ice Breaker speech next week and scheduled my second speech at the end of September.

I also completed the Toastmaster’s questionnaire to see which path is most closely aligned with my interests, strengths, and weaknesses. It recommended the leadership path so that is the one I chose.

In four weeks, I have already noticed a difference. My fear of public speaking seems to be subsiding. I no longer feel overwhelmingly nervous, get headaches, or race to the restroom before Toastmaster meetings.

Every week, I look forward to Toastmasters! The club’s members are incredibly amusing, witty and creative. I am continually in awe of their public speaking skills and look forward to speaking more like them in the future.

In addition, I finished reading two books on success by Dani Johnson and finished the book “Everyday Greatness”.

Challenge yourself to do something you have always wanted to do.

Take one small step toward your dreams today!

What small step will you take today?

 

It’s official! I’m going back to Toastmasters…

Next Wednesday, I return to Toastmasters with the goal of finishing the Competent Communicator Manual which consists of 10 different types of presentations. Last night, I filled out the application and corresponded with our local club’s President.

Toastmasters, here I come… again!

2009

Nine years ago, I gave a particularly bad speech. It was really awful! I still cringe thinking about it.

My then boss asked me to give a briefing with two days to prepare. I was new to the topic, had not briefed in years, and was not ready to brief the material.

The night before the presentation, I had something close to a panic attack. I broke down and cried the ugliest of tears. I dreaded that briefing with every fiber of my being. I barely slept. I woke up exhausted. I drove to work in a fog.

adult alone black and white blur

When I walked into the room, 20 people stared at me. Within 30 seconds, I could feel the nervousness growing inside me with every word. My face turned bright red. I started sweating profusely. My mind went blank. Silence.

My boss was sitting in the far right corner quietly watching his employee turn to mush. I asked him if he would like to take over. The visitors shifted in their seats uncomfortably. They glanced at each other wondering what was going on. Much to my dismay, he said no. I had no choice but to struggle through the briefing. I survived. Barely.

The next week, I signed up for Toastmasters. I vowed that I would never humiliate myself and my employer again. I attended a local Toastmaster’s Club every Thursday night for 6 months. Before every meeting, I doubled up on deodorant. I began counting uhs and ummmms, participated in table topics, and gave my first Ice Breaker speech. When the club changed locations, I stopped going since the new facility was too far away. With the club gone, I fell back into my old habit of avoidance. The few briefing skills I had went dormant.

2018

My All Things Great project has inspired me to try again. With a three day public speaking course under my belt as of this week, and a few briefings here and there since 2012, I am more determined than ever to finish the competent communication manual. For details on this manual, see Toastmasters Speech Series: Your Guide to the First 10 Speeches.

Toastmasters, here I come… again!

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Public Speaking Tip No. 1: Calm Your Nerves By Using the Two Second Rule

Calming your nerves before a briefing can be especially challenging if you are not an experienced briefer. A helpful tip I learned at this week’s briefing class is as follows:
  • Walk towards the podium or location where you will brief
  • Turn toward the audience, pause, and smile
  • Make eye contact with one person and internally count, one-one-thousand, two-one thousand
  • Make eye contact with a second person and internally count, one-one-thousand, two-one thousand
  • Make eye contact with a third person and internally count, one-one-thousand, two-one thousand
  • Start your presentation

There were six people in our class. We all thought this nerve-calming technique felt forced and awkward. Yet, as we got used to it, we found that it really helped reduce the effects of nervous energy.

It also forces the audience to focus on you because they are waiting to hear what you have to say.

The 2017 World Toastmaster champion, Manoj Vasudevan, used this exact technique quite effectively. If you watch him, he follows the same formula that I shared above.

If a Toastmaster champion can use this technique, so can we!

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Face Your Public Speaking Fear Head On

On July 1, 2018, I wrote a blog post on facing your fears. See 5 Steps to Overcome Your Fears So You Can Live Your Ideal Life.

Within that post, I explained that one of my fears is public speaking. It hasn’t done me any favors in my adult life. In fact, it has held me back more times than I care to admit. Never again… I have finally decided that public speaking will not paralyze me anymore.

Since I last posted on my blog, I have taken several steps to overcome my fear:

  1. I asked my boss if I could brief a topic I am passionate about at an upcoming meeting. The briefing opportunity did not materialize because my topic was outside the scope of the meeting. I was a little disappointed but, as you can imagine, secretly relieved. After asking though, something fascinated happened. I felt immediately empowered. I felt like I was finally chipping away at my fear.
  2. I also signed up for a three day briefing class which I am taking this week. I finished the second day today. Is it ever brutal! I will write about it in later posts.
  3. Finally, I filled out a Toastmaster application for a local club. I start next week.

Within the space of 10 days, I clearly identified my fear (if the truth be told, I have known about this fear my whole adult life), wrote a specific goal that I could achieve (e.g. I brief at least 5 people per month for the next 12 months), and have decided to improve.

I am nervous but excited to begin this journey.

I am confident that your ideal life can be achieved if you face your fears.

Wish me luck! 🙂

Claire

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5 Steps to Overcome Your Fears So You Can Live Your Ideal Life

How would you feel if you were living your ideal life? Amazing, right? Take a few minutes to imagine your future life. Sit back. Put your feet up. Ask yourself… Who is near you? What are you doing? Where do you live? Imagine how you might feel. Relaxed? Happy? Stress-free? Loved? Successful?

art beach beautiful clouds

Now that you have basked in the glow of your future life, ask yourself the following question:

Why Aren’t I Living My Ideal life?

Deep down, we all probably know what is standing between us and our future life. Quite often, it is the fear of _______________ (fill in the blank). I would argue that, in most cases, we have the power to overcome our fears.

In pursuit of my All Things Great project, I am testing the following five steps to overcome my own worst fear—public speaking.

  1. Identify your fear(s)
  2. Decide to overcome your fear(s) and its associated obstacles
  3. Practice, practice, practice
  4. Cross train
  5. Continue to seek new and challenging opportunities to face your fear

1. Identify Your Fear

Identifying your fear(s) is the most logical first step toward living your ideal life.

In my case, I fear public speaking. I am a complete nightmare to be around when I have an upcoming speaking engagement, especially when my briefing skills are rusty, I am speaking about an unfamiliar topic, or I am not fully prepared. It is not uncommon for my husband to say, “Geeez, I wish they wouldn’t ask you to brief!” to which I usually respond, “Yeah, me too!” The introvert in me despises the incessant butterflies, the shooting pains in my chest, the dull pain that emanates from behind my right ear and gradually swells into a pounding headache, and the constant trips to the bathroom. The struggle is real. This fear will manifest itself for several days leading up to a presentation. After surviving the presentation, I am always surprised. The experience is never as bad as I imagined it. Yet, when the next briefing request surfaces months later, the cycle repeats itself. My fear of public speaking is undoubtedly the main barrier between my ideal life and me.

Exercise: What is your fear? Write it down.

2. Decide to Overcome Your Fear And Its Associated Obstacles

Knowing what you fear, and deciding to overcome your fear, are two different steps. You have to want to overcome your fear. If you tell yourself, “I don’t want to overcome my fear”, you never will. If you tell yourself that you will overcome your fear, you have a better chance of succeeding.

Exercise: Tell yourself that you WILL overcome your fear. Then, write it down. Using a 3×5 card, write down a goal that will help you overcome your fear. It should be written in large letters, in the present tense, and you should keep it where you can see it. Tape the goal to your bathroom mirror, near your desk at work, in your car, on your fridge, in your wallet, or in all of those places. As an example, my newly created goal card is, “I brief at least 5 people every month for the next 12 months.”

3. Practice, Practice, Practice

The only way to get better at anything, including overcoming your fear, is to practice. Ask yourself… What action will allow me to face my fears? If you’re like me and you fear public speaking, you have lots of options. You could sign up for a briefing class at work, if available, or at a community college, join Toastmasters, or ask your boss or coworkers for briefing opportunities. Once you have committed to a speaking opportunity, pick a topic, write a script and start practicing it over, and over, and over again. Find a quiet room in your house or place of employment and practice until you feel more confident with your briefing.

Exercise: Find one opportunity within the next month that will allow you to face your fears. Then, take the necessary steps to start practicing so you are prepared.

4. Cross Train

Athletes improve their overall performance by cross training. Employees cross train to learn new skills. We can use the cross training concept as well. Select a fun activity that will help you overcome your fear indirectly. In the case of public speaking, there are many ways, besides giving a speech, to become comfortable in front of a crowd. You don’t always have to speak in front of someone to work on your skills. In addition to regular presentations, sign up for a dance or drama class, volunteer to read books to kids at a local school, join the PTA, sign up to become an assistant coach for your kids’ sports team, take music lessons and sign up for a recital. The goal is to put yourself in an environment that helps you overcome your fear.

Exercise: Sign up for a fun activity that will indirectly help you overcome your fear.

5. Continue to Seek New and Challenging Opportunities to Face Your Fear

Unfortunately, overcoming a fear does not occur overnight. Continue to seek new opportunities. If you fear public speaking, don’t stop with one briefing to 5 people. Do another one. And another.

Exercise: Find another opportunity.

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As Tim Ferriss said in the last minute of his 2008 TED talk, Smash Fear, Learn Anything, “Fear is your friend. Fear is an indicator. Sometimes, it shows you what you shouldn’t do. More often than not, it shows you exactly what you should do.”

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Was this post helpful to you? If so, I would love to know how it helped.