4 Years ago I joined Toastmasters. It wasn’t a choice. It was a necessity.
I’ve seen people join public speaking for many reasons over the years:
-Want to get ahead at work
-Out of work and want to do better at job interviews
-Want to learn how to speak English more clearly
-Want to learn how to network more and polish speaking ability
My reason initially was to overcome “fear of public speaking”. But it was also the fear of connecting with people –especially in a group.
But the irony is that the things I’ve ultimately gotten from Toastmasters have nothing to do with the reason I joined.
#1 I never thought I’d make a group of people laugh at my jokes. Only close friends of mine ever told me I was funny. So when people actually laughed at my first speech it confused me. I was like, “Oh! I really am funny.” That’s the first thing you get from Toastmasters you don’t come here seeking outright: Finding out Who You Are. Not just who you suspect you are, but who other people verifiably confirm You Are. The Real You. The Hidden You. The Intended You.
#2 I’d never thought I’d “engage an audience”. They tell you that’s what professional speakers do well. They don’t just talk to a group of people; they include and Lead a group of people in a discussion. They look people in the eye and say, “Hey I’m not just saying this for the sake of saying this –I’m saying this For You. I SEE You. I want you to Hear Me. Let’s engage in this topic like human beings concerned appreciating the same meaningful significance.
#3 People. I hoped to get good at maybe talking to people. But had NO idea about the KINDS of people I’d meet. These are strong, warm, caring people. These are life-long friends. These are guides to help you find out things you weren’t even aware of that you needed to know. These are supporters who have your back and root for you silently every time you step in front of the lectern.
#4 Criticism. Who wants criticism? Nobody! Nobody seeks out feedback of that nature. And I do mean criticism because whether you like it or not that’s the way feedback hits you sometimes –especially in the beginning. But to learn how to take those words and either use them to your advantage or NOT CARE either way because you are secure with who you are and what was said and most importantly Your Message was heard.
#5 Finding a Voice. Finding a Message. I had no voice. I had 22 years of built of message. But no Voice. No one to listen even if I did. And I found it. And the confidence to speak with it. And the courage to try out different ways of speaking with it.
#6 Contribution. I never thought when I joined that I had something to give back. That there was something in me to Give to this group. I thought I was there to get –not to give. But then without trying I did. Not just as an officer supporting the behind-the-scenes of the club. But as a person arriving early helping to setup for the meeting. Meeting up with someone who needed help on a speech they were nervous about. Giving valuable insight into someone’s speech they just gave –not How they gave it, but How it made me feel when they did because it was that moving. You give back every day –whether you try or not. And you get every day in this club.
· The speeches
· Seeing people evolve and break through invisible barriers
· Enjoying the energy in the room and the humor
Sometimes the only thing that got me up in the early morning hours to come to a meeting when I wasn’t even going to fill a role that day was the possibility of hearing someone say something I’d never heard anyone else say before about a topic I didn’t even know I was passionate about. You don’t find places like this every day. You are meant to be here for one reason or another. And the reason you joined is Not going to be the reason you stay. And what you thought you’d get out of this club isn’t even close to what this club will actually give to you and you will contribute back to the world.