Many of my readers know that I joined Toastmasters about a year ago. I had always known of the organization, but being a fairly confident public speaker, never really felt the urge to go. There was a point, however, where I came to realize that while I am good at giving speeches when I have ample time to prepare, I'm not so strong at speaking off the cuff.
Seeking to improve this skill, I sought out a local Toastmasters club - finding Manitoba Morning to be the most suitable for my schedule - and after trying out a couple of meetings as a guest, purchased a membership and joined formally. I was amazed at how much I was able to improve in my impromptu speaking, and even in my prepared speeches. In addition, I have also made improvements in another valuable skill: how to listen and provide constructive, practical feedback to other speakers. And the flow of the meetings provides valuable experience which ties directly into my work on the board of directors for my kids' independent school.
My overall confidence has grown, I've made new friends, and I've stretched myself in ways I never thought possible. I believe there isn't a person alive who would not benefit from a Toastmasters membership. Find a club in your area and check out their meetings. It can't hurt.
Last month our club held elections for the executive positions which are needed to run the club effectively and in accordance with Toastmasters International norms. Several members approached me and asked if I'd be interested in running for President, or VP of Education. I declined those invitations, as my schedule is already quite full with school board work, the music I do for church, and the administration of the schedule at our parish's Perpetual Adoration chapel. I didn't want to take on any position which would require that I do any more work outside of the basic Toastmasters club setting. At the last moment, I decided to put my name forward for Secretary, and won. My term begins July 1. I reasoned that this job would be OK for me as most of the Secretary's roles are within the meeting itself.
Right after the elections were finished, I learned that all executive members - and the Secretary is one - must attend a a 2-hour training session put on by the local Toastmasters district leadership. Immediately I had a sense of regret. I didn't realize this would happen! I wouldn't have put my name forward if I had known that I would have to do a single iota of extra work outside the club setting. And yet there I was, committed.
My training was tonight. During the introductions, I got a laugh by introducing myself by saying that since I'm not very outgoing, I am the incoming Secretary for Manitoba Morning. And being the keener that I am, I had downloaded the training material from the TI site and reviewed it prior to the training, so I didn't learn a whole lot tonight. I was, in all honesty, a wee bit bored. But my sense of foreboding faded somewhat, once the training was over. I'm beginning to see what I can learn from this role and how it can help to continue to form me in other areas of my life.
I'm well out of my comfort zone though. But I guess that's kinda the point.
Eighty-three to go.