Saturday, 1 August 2015

TOASTMASTERS AND WHY???

Fear of Public speaking ....

Public speaking was a taboo for me. Before speaking even in front of a small group, I used to get this queasy feeling in my stomach that won’t go away. My hands gets sweaty even thinking of the stage. I feel like I want to run away and that's what I did.

I have been doing it from the college. I used to choose college coursework in such a way as to avoid public speaking. The things continued with me to my workplace. I started passing promotions and assignments which would require speaking. I choose technical work and let others present my work. They worked away with the accolade.  Public speaking is a phobia for me.

In-order to conquer this phobia that was stalling me in my career, one of the few methods I have tried is joining a Toastmaster club. “City of Perth Toastmaster Club” was near to my work place. Toastmasters has had the greatest positive impact on my life. I believe the benefits of membership extend far beyond simple public speaking skills. Today it has improved, though a long way to go. I think almost everyone would benefit from joining Toastmasters.


TOASTMASTERS ....

First a little information about what Toastmasters is for those who are unfamiliar with this organization. Beginning in 1924 through Ralph C. Smedley to train public speaking, the organization has since grown to over 313,000 members in over 126 countries worldwide. Focusing on public speaking and leadership skills, Toastmasters is one of the largest organized systems of personal development in the world.


MISCONCEPTION ....

One of the big problems I see with Toastmasters current reputation is that initially most people believe that it is simply a program for speakers to get together and practice what, for most people is an often unused skill. Since most people don’t do any public speaking aside from the occasional meeting or toast at a wedding, they see the biweekly / weekly or even monthly meetings as being a considerable investment for unsure benefits.

One of the main benefits of the Toastmasters club is the leadership skills. This clubs asks the members to volunteer for organizing the meetings to run the club. Unfortunately what most people don’t understand is that the skills learned in mastering public speaking and leadership are core skills needed for dealing with other people. These skills are the communication skills you use many times every single day. Instead of thinking about doing a big presentation with your toastmaster skills, think about something as simple as talking with a group of friends.

Many people who have labelled themselves ‘introverts’ or lack social skills like myself can find Toastmasters to be a fantastic place to rapidly improve their communication skills. Even if you are currently a very sociable person, Toastmasters can teach you to improve your skills and give you the confidence that comes from being a competent speaker.


MEMBERS ....

One of the great advantages of Toastmasters is the members and their attitude. Organisations in general are great places to make friends and meet new people, I would say the Toastmasters atmosphere facilities it. One of the reasons I feel Toastmasters makes it easier to meet people is because there is a strong emphasis on being very supportive of the people around you. It’s too bad that this attitude isn’t ingrained in all our dealings with other people, because it really makes it much easier to make friends. I can’t speak for all clubs when I make this statement though generally is the norm. City of Perth Toastmasters club have definitely been one of the great examples of it.


GREAT TIME ....

One of the reasons why Toastmasters is a great place to meet people is because there is mutually positive feedback between members. By giving and receiving positive feedback I think rapport is established much more quickly.


STRESS BUSTERS ....

One of the aspects of Toastmasters that surprised me most, was just how fun the meetings are. Even without all the skill and relationship benefits, I go to meetings for sheer entertainment. Unfortunately I think this aspect of Toastmasters is also overlooked by new members. In the first few meetings you might feel a bit fresh and nervous, so it might be hard to enjoy yourself. But I’ve found after just a couple meetings members have often told me that they come just for the stress relief or laughs.

Even the regular activities such as prepared speeches, table topics and doing introductions are usually filled with humour. If your initial impression of Toastmasters was that of a stuffy, boring organization where people gave toasts to each other, then I think you should look again.


THE STRUCTURE ....

In Toastmaster generally the course in on the Competent Communication which consist of 10 speeches. This can be done on one’s own pace. Once you have completed the 10 speeches you can move along with the advanced manuals.

The other is the Leadership Manual which can help you to develop the leadership skills while doing the day to day roles at Toastmaster.

In the follow-up blogs I would be discussing how I had prepared for my speeches and done the roles.