Here’s three important lessons you should know about Toastmasters:
1. Toastmasters has the flexibility to let you choose your path to success.
Many Toastmasters fall into one of three groups: getting over your fear of speaking, trying to become a better speaker, and enjoying the experience with friends. Note: you may be in one, two, or all three categories at different times or all at once.
If you’re working to get over your fear, there is some value in mixing up your topic selection more often than not. You need to focus on being comfortable, and finding your voice (and topic) is important there. Using a variety of topics can help you find your strengths and improve where you may not have known you needed to.
When you’re working to improve your skills, now may be the time to revisit some recent topics. Take what you’ve done before, work in some of your recent improvements (i.e. different opening, more audience interaction, etc.) and get more (fresh) feedback. This is especially helpful if you have something you need to do well at work, or even when you are competing in a Toastmaster contest.
Do you just like enjoying the experience with friends? It can be good to revisit some topics here too. I recently gave a speech on Fantasy Football to one club. It was fun for me, but the audience had very few football fans. I knew another club had some sports fans, so I modified the speech a bit and gave it again. I added five jerseys to my wardrobe, and pulled one off per main point. It added some humor and made it fun for me and the audience too.
2. Great speakers and leaders aren’t born, they’re made.
Two things amaze me. One is the person who make a dramatic improvement by working on their skills, integrating feedback, and continuing to want to improve. Second is the person who hides behind the “great leaders (or speakers) are born” myth.
3. Someone is glad you are (were) a member.
If you are a member, chances are really good that at least one person is glad you are. In fact, there are probably three, four or maybe dozens who are glad you’re taking the time to come out to meetings, speak, evaluate, and be involved.
If you stopped going to Toastmasters, I’d make some good money betting that at least one member misses you. Maybe it was your unique take on the Wicked Witch of the West (probably copyrighted), your great tips for their speeches (or blog), or perhaps just your smile. Don’t hold it against them if they were to shy to say “thank you” or just mention that you are great. After all, they’re there to get over their fear too.
Think about this: what brought you here? Specifically, what were you looking for when you first visited a Toastmasters club? What were you looking for when you joined? Are you still looking?
Another safe bet? You can find it. That confidence, that skill, that greatness you’re looking for. Next time you go to a club meeting, ask for it by name. You’ll find people there that are ready in willing to help you reach your goals.
What are your three lessons?