I joined Toastmasters (TMs) in January 2021 and have now completed my 2-year and 2-month journey in my Presentation Mastery Pathway. Overall, I have delivered eighteen speeches in our speakers’ club and seven speeches outside of the club.
Why did I join TMs? Probably, just like most of the members, to gain confidence and effective communication skills in public, to learn how to craft a speech and also increase my listening skills. I have had fun in taking part in nearly all the club roles. I enjoy evaluating speakers, impromptu speaking in Table Topics and even doing the Toastmaster role.
My first year in the club was passive, super slow progress as our meetings were only delivered online on Zoom due to Pandemic, and to be honest I did not enjoy Zoom meetings as much as I do in person. Why? My listening skills were bad at that time, and I did not pay attention to speeches online and there were some occasions I had my camera off in meetings as I was cooking, writing emails, or doing other things instead.
Then, after the lockdown was over, I attended meetings at the Burlington Hotel in Worthing and things started to go so much faster for me…I took on various club roles and delivered speeches every month as I simply wanted to wake up from the passive mode and make the best out of my membership. My listening skills developed to the point that I now listen to all speeches and pay attention to others in the meetings.
I also took a part in the club contests three times. Last year in Table Topics Contest, the year before in an International Speech Contest and just recently in an Evaluation Contest. I did not win but it was a good experience. I have also tried various international online clubs in Las Vegas, USA – Sydney, Australia – Dublin, Ireland – Prague, Czech Republic and Budapest, Hungary. The Las Vegas club I attended for a couple of months as I found it very helpful.
In our club, listening to the evaluation of other speakers has been incredibly informative. I personally, enjoy receiving feedback/evaluations from club members after I deliver a speech and I keep all the received feedback slips. From all the feedback I received, were suggestions of things to improve. So, I listened and hopefully improved on specific areas such as gestures, eye contact, pausing, speech structure, stronger openings and conclusions…Impromptu speaking was something I was so fearful of, but this is no more, now I actually like it.
I have learnt a lot from the online Pathways programme, there is some useful information that can help you not only with the speech for that stage, but the information is also transferable to your life outside of Toastmasters.
My mentor, Cecily B is lovely, and she has been a real help on my journey. She supported me not only in the club but also outside of the club either as my evaluator or simply as a supporter or observer in my speech delivery. Cecily, thank you, for all your wonderful advice and guidance. 😊
What would I suggest to new TMs? Do sign up for speeches, try various club roles, enter contests, visit other clubs and, of course, the more you do the better you become at it. The more you expose yourself, the more your confidence increases. Everyone gets stage fright – embrace it and make it work for you or it will work against you.
In conclusion, I have changed so much since I joined Toastmasters, and in so many ways that I could never imagine. I have certainly gained more confidence, and now I am able to speak in front of people without being too nervous or sweating too much like I used to do before.
Delivering speech after speech, I realised I needed less training and preparation. When you have confidence in yourself, then everything in life looks easier. My overall perception of my growth as a public speaker and a leader in my own business has definitely changed in the last two years. I may not be there yet, but I am certainly closer than I was yesterday.
I couldn’t have done it without my club’s wonderful support, understanding and friendship! I highly recommend Toastmasters to anyone seeking to improve their speaking/listening skills as you can gain these skills and so much more!😊