I arrived late to my first ever visit to a Portage and Main Toastmasters meeting. It was an open house and I was one of many guests. I had come because I wanted to see what a Toastmasters group could offer me, probably much like you did. I remember during that meeting one of our long-time members, Daria, shared a prepared speech explaining her own reasons for joining Toastmasters. The meeting even included a round of Table Topics (impromptu opportunities to speak) and I rushed through less than a minute of an answer to one of those Table Topics questions.
It’s been two and half years since I joined Portage and Main Toastmasters and I think it’s high time that I take stock of the things I’ve learnt. I want to focus on three key ways that Toastmasters has helped me.
1. The tools Toastmasters provides has helped me to structure my thoughts and create a presentable format to share them.
2. The low-risk environment where I can practice communication has resulted in major growth.
3. The practice of giving and receiving feedback has proven to be quite useful for personal and professional settings.
The Toastmaster toolbox includes so many guides and outlines to help complete projects within their Pathways curriculum. Yes, with Toastmasters, you get access to this curriculum, through which you choose a “Path” (essentially a direction to take your learning in) and are guided through projects with clear objectives and goals.
A large part of communication is structuring your thoughts and ideas, which is why a key component of Toastmasters projects is to do just that.
Over the past two years, I’ve crafted speeches and presentations on a variety of subject matter, many pertaining directly to my work as a small business owner. These projects have helped me to flesh out messages for the copy and content I use for marketing. They have also allowed me to explore and teach on subject matter I am really interested in, like the Enneagram personality typing system - for which I’ve completed two presentations at our weekly club meetings.
Low-Risk Practice Grounds
Think of our weekly meetings as practice. Practice is crucial to growth, and weekly meetings are the perfect place for that practice. At Toastmasters, you have an opportunity to meet with a group of people that come for that same purpose of growth. When you participate in a meeting, you get to practice with those people and each meeting role allows you to try out different skills. You get to practice leading a meeting, evaluating and giving feedback, noting timing and grammar, and, of course, speaking, all in a low-risk environment, because we are all practicing.
Because of this practice, I’ve been steadily lessening my use of crutch words as I gain confidence in communicating (both in person and on your screens). Even in the past year and half, because of our virtual meetings, I feel more confident in hosting virtual consultations and seminars for my business.
Toastmaster meetings are the practice grounds for our communication and leadership skills.
Giving and Receiving Feedback
I would say one of the biggest unexpected lessons gleaned from my experience with Toastmasters is the giving and receiving of feedback. This is an important skill to have.
Receiving feedback also takes practice! Because of Toastmasters, I’ve made it a regular habit to ask for feedback in my work, from both clients and collaborators, believing that there is always something to be learned and improved upon. Toastmasters has taught me to be curious and to hunger for opportunities to grow.
Toastmasters has taught me to structure my thoughts, to practice, practice, practice, and always look for those opportunities to grow.
Portage and Main Toastmasters Fall Open House
Have you ever been curious to see what Toastmasters is all about? You’re in luck! This coming Tuesday, November 9th, Portage and Main Toastmasters is hosting our virtual Fall Open House. To gain access to that meeting link, just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Portage and Main Toastmasters meets virtually every Tuesday at noon.
Hope to see you there!