Toastmasters - a helpful way to get through life
Perspective by Timothy B. Owens
People think of Toastmasters as a public speaking program which affords the opportunity to network with others but it is so much more. For some, Toastmasters means helping others to overcome shyness. Whether one is a novice or experienced speaker, however, Toastmasters provides the opportunity to with practice become better speakers and if desired participate in speech competitions on a club, state and international level.
Being a Toastmaster isn’t just about being a better communicator. It’s about the confidence you gain in speaking in front of the group – a confidence that transfers to your daily life. It’s also about the interpersonal growth you achieve through interactions with others whether it be in the participation or in the organizing of a social event, or public relations campaign, or the actual chairing of an event. These activities are the other part of the program – leadership. So yes, there is a well-developed communications avenue coupled with strategic plans that offer an individual the ability to become a better leader. Here, at Capitol Toastmasters, I have personally witnessed members, who were at first insecure acting as leaders, become more experienced leaders through the mentorship program.
After achieving the “Competent Communicator” level, there are 15 advanced areas of speaking. For example, one can learn and practice the six steps of a winning proposal, how to negotiate a win-win situation, or successfully facilitate a discussion. Individuals choose from these 15 manuals that focus on speeches that are more technical or business-oriented. Members can practice to be more entertaining or be accomplished story tellers – they say that it is the entertaining speaker who is sought and asked to come back.
Although my initial goal in joining Capitol Toastmasters was to develop speaking skills and to network with colleagues in ADOT, I found that there was much more to the organization than I had originally known or could have imagined. For example, during table topics when you’re thinking on your feet, you may find yourself saying things that you might not normally say to strangers in a conversation or you may find out things about others that you were not aware of. This allows for expressing yourself on another level and getting to know people in a different environment. After awhile, I was surprised to discover that I was initiating conversation with others outside of the club and conversing at length with people I have never met before. Toastmasters is indeed life changing.
I remember four years ago going to a presentation in a nearby auditorium. The presentation was pretty horrible. I remember seeing several people nodding off and realized I never wanted to give a boring speech. The President of Capitol Toastmasters at that time, ironically, was passing out Toastmasters brochures at the auditorium. I picked one up, attended a meeting and have been going since.
Four short years after my first meeting, as a far less outspoken individual, I am President of Capitol Toastmasters. I have since then presented many speeches, participated in speech contests, chaired a public relations campaign, managed an area speech competition, revised the architecture of and managed the club website, and have been editor of our newsletter..
Today, I feel more effective in everything I do because I have the ability and confidence that comes from improving communication and leadership skills.
I learned these skills by committing to and following the Toastmasters program and by leaning on a few friendly people who provided honest input and feedback, which helped me to grow. Without the members support I do not know whether I would have achieved this level of skill and confidence. I owe a lot to my friends at Capitol Toastmasters who along with the time spent on practice allowed me to become a better communicator and leader. Although I doubt that I can ever repay all that I have received from our club, I will continue to support their efforts wherever I can and when time permits into the future. I can see myself being a Toastmaster member for a long, long time because although I have learned so much, I don’t believe that there is ever an end to what can be learned in the realm of communications and leadership and learning takes practice.
You’re probably asking yourself now what Toastmasters can do for you. Come to one of our meetings; you have nothing to lose (except maybe an extra hour of sleep – which most of us lose by fretting over our daily miscommunications!). We meet on Thursdays at 7 am in the Arizona Room in Modular D, which is behind the ADOT Administration Building. It’s changed my life; please give it a chance to change yours!
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