My reasons to join Toastmasters are not going to be the usual ones you read.
People are familiar with the word ‘Toastmasters’ but often not the organization itself. Most say “Isn’t it an event where you get over a fear of public speaking?” No way – that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
I joined well over a year ago thinking “This will make me a better public speaker”. I didn’t have a fear of speaking, but had specific goals. I knew I talked too fast and wanted to hone my skills for national and international conferences. What my membership has actually given me goes far beyond effective speaking. Why not read on to see my take on reasons to join Toastmasters in your area?
It Builds Leadership And Other Skills You Didn’t Know You Had
A Toastmasters (TMI) meeting isn’t two hours of speeches! In fact, they usually take up a third of the entire meeting.
Let’s skip over the public speaking aspect and get right to the meat of it: TMI prepares you to lead. To step up and do tasks. To handle sticky situations, on and off the stage.
There are variety of roles performed at each meeting that don’t require much preparation. These roles include:
- Ah Counter: keeping track of ums, ahs, and other stop words
- Timer: keeping track of how long various parts of the meeting run
- Grammarian: watching for great and not so great use of language during the whole meeting (not only speeches)
Without them, the meeting has no structure and things derail. They may seem simple, but it builds accountability to sign up, show up and do what’s expected of you. For the good of the entire club.
Then there are larger roles that require more preparation. Maybe a few minutes or an hour, tops:
- Table Topics Master: a fun way to get people thinking on their feet with impromptu themed speeches. Here’s an example of a Table Topic I ran.
- General Evaluator: reviewing and critiquing how the meeting ran
- Speech Evaluator: offering positive and constructive feedback on speeches given
- Toastmaster: running the meeting, much like an Emcee or master of ceremony
Here’s the thing: every member is expected to do these roles a few times at some point. Everyone gets to practice speaking when not doing a speech. Everyone gets a chance to lead. These roles directly translate into useful skills beyond speeches. Emceeing, organizing events and running panels comes to mind.
TMI is not only about your speech needs. It’s also about building effective communication tasks and skills. This is my favourite thing about it, actually. Watching people transform from passive bystander to active contributor in meetings is powerful… and inspiring.
It’s Like Attending Many Tiny TEDTalks Or Podcasts
Do you enjoy listening to podcasts or short speeches online? Then you’re going to love TMI. Most speeches run five to seven minutes, with specialized ones going as long as 15. Every member in a club have their own interests, bringing different topics and styles. Combine that with a variety of project goals per speech, and you have an infinite variety of talks to listen to.
You Gain Perspective
Clubs attract a variety of people, and it’s safe to say that TMI is composed of every age group, gender, industry, race, creed and culture. On a large scale, it is an international organization that is very sensitive to how big (or small) the globe is. So mandates and protocols are global. If you like to travel, TMI is right there in your suitcase!
On a club level, most are a diverse range of age groups and first/second/third languages. Each member has their own specific goals they’re trying to achieve. One may be an engineer who is an immigrant wanting to make their second language more natural. There’s a retired banker who wants to articulate their new love for watercolour. A soft-spoken writer who wants to deliver their beautifully crafted words with gusto. These people bring perspective to the world around you. Meetings allow everyone time to express, evaluate and interact. Clubs can become comfortably intimate in the short time they run. It’s hard to find that in industry-specific networking events.
It’s Bang For Your Buck
I like value for the money I part with. Dues is a bit different club to club, but I’ve done the research. Compared to a speech coach or ‘speakers retreats’, TMI is affordable with high return on value. Peer review of your speeches. Manuals and online resources to obtain goals as broad or as specific as you need. Mentorship. An awesome monthly magazine (more on that later). Certification that is globally recognized (rare to find!). Opportunity to broaden your horizons. All this for less than what you pay buying brand-name coffee in a year.
There’s A Monthly Magazine And I Legit Love It
When Toastmaster lands in my mailbox (yes – a physical magazine!) I gobble it up. I love reading about other members around the world. Articles are timely, relevant and informative. No eye-rolls here. I’ve learned how to handle people that talk over you. How to discuss sensitive topics. What to do when you run into technical difficulties during a presentation.
I’ve read success stories about community leaders, athletes, musicians and game developers. Absolute gold delivered every month. I keep them around to show off to friends and people I think might enjoy Toastmasters. It’s a great recruiting aid!
Clubs Are Different… Yet The Same… And That’s A Good Thing
If you’ve been to one club in the past and it wasn’t your fancy – don’t give up! While there are standards held to all clubs, each are free to tweak the system to suit their members. Some are driven by a certain industry. Others, aimed at those whose native language isn’t that of the country they’re in. Some meet every week, others every two weeks and take breaks in the summer. Some have social gatherings (toasties) after meetings. Some are advanced clubs exclusive to Toastmasters who earned a certain level of accreditation.
The beauty is that for all the diversity of clubs, there is familiarity with the system. Everyone uses the same acronyms and follows the same rules. There is comfort in knowing a system and being able to continue it, no matter what club you happen to be in or visit. I enjoy the flexibility of TMI and take great interest in how each club does things a bit differently.
And there you have it. My reasons to join Toastmasters. If you’re considering or are curious, I say go for it! I encourage you to see what ones are available in your area. It’s free to visit until you find the right one. Membership happens in six months stints so you can transfer too. Don’t be afraid to go to a few to see which ones match your personality best.
Shameless Club Plug: If you live near or plan to move to Halifax, Nova Scotia, may I suggest my club: Creatively Speaking Halifax? As of the writing of this article I am the incoming VP of Membership, so I’m right there waiting. Ready to welcome you along with all the other fantastic members of TMI.