I commonly use this phrase when I talk about a very big part of my life – Toastmasters. I say this because of the tremendous learning and personal development that have come to me by taking a turn down this path. I also share this to encourage others, especially my fellow public servants, to investigate the value that belonging to Toastmasters will likely bring to them.
In this article, I’ll share what Toastmasters is, my story of how I decided to join, and what I get out of it.
What is it?
Toastmasters is a global network of over 280,000 members seeking to improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of 13,500 clubs in 116 countries. It sounds big; however, it feels small since the mission of each club is to provide a safe and mutually supportive learning environment for its members. It’s also incredibly cost effective. My club dues are around a $100/year; compare that to continuing education offerings that offer fewer learning hours for much more cost.
Toastmasters is a international organization geared to boost communication & leadership skills of its members.
I also describe Toastmasters by what it is not. First, Toastmasters is not a “public speaking” organization. More properly it is a communication and leadership organization; a component of that involves improving public speaking skills. Second, Toastmasters is not strictly remedial. I’ve seen many bosses send their staff to Toastmasters to upgrade identified weaknesses. However, the best bosses also join when they recognize that they can enrich their own communication and leadership skills as well.
How did you join?
I was first exposed to Toastmasters when I was invited to a few meetings by one of my professors at Lakehead University. While I enjoyed the meetings, I convinced myself that I was too busy to join due to completing my studies, job searching, starting a career, adjusting to a new community (Prince George), and enjoying the frivolity of youth.
Then, one evening, several years later my wife, Terri, shocked me by sharing that she had visited a Toastmaster meeting that day and joined on the spot. She was re-entering the workforce after the birth of our son and thought it would help her with networking and interviewing skills. That awesome reason did nothing to diminish my definite envy. You see, I often noticed announcements of Toastmaster meetings and thought, “I really ought to attend when I can find the time.” When Terri opened the door to her Toastmaster Club meeting room the very next week, I was there, bright and eager to participate and join. Who says good things don’t arise out of jealousy and spite?
What do you get out of it?
13 years later, I am much richer for it and wish I decided to join much earlier. I am convinced my life would be even more awesome if I had.
In addition to learning technical skills and exposure to theory and concepts surrounding communication and leadership, I’ve also developed the poise and confidence to practically apply what I’ve learned. This is because the learning format of Toastmasters, a social club meeting, provides a practice environment that is tremendously more effective than a lecture or reading from a book. We practice for real life. However perhaps the biggest Toastmaster eye opener for me is how it can help people in giving and receiving feedback. These are skills that everyone can develop and are key competencies for public servants.
Want more information?
Most folks investigate Toastmasters by attending a meeting. There is no charge for guests, no obligation to join, and we try not to put you on the spot if you wish to be a silent observer (we know it’s scary). In Prince George, you are welcome to be my guest at a meeting of the Plaza 400 Club, which meets every Thursday at noon. Or, find out more, including club meeting and contact information, with a visit to the international website or by “googling” the words “toastmasters” and the name of your local community.
Joining Toastmasters has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for the fantastic learning experiences it has gifted me. It has certainly made me a more effective public servant and enhanced me both professionally and personally. I would love to invite your comments and questions (enter below), email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a tweet to @gsjonuk