I joined Toastmasters about a year ago, and am still surprised by the difference it has made. Not that it should be all that surprising, considering what Toastmasters has to offer. Here are some of the details that explain the powerful benefits of Toastmasters and why I find it so valuable.
Over the years, I have travelled and paid thousands of pounds on my journey in self-development, most of the time paying way too much for the value of the training actually delivered.
Getting started with Toastmasters
Then I moved to Kent and opened a satellite office in Discovery Park, the former home of Pfizer. I quickly discovered that there was a Toastmasters club on site that met each week at lunchtime and thought I would give it a go.
Most people I speak to think that Toastmasters is an old man’s network, with a focus on calling guests to order at fancy functions.
How wrong I was! What I found instead was a pleasant group of professional people, who were engaging and encouraging for the benefit of all. Not only do we have a good time at our meetings, but I’m also amazed by how much I’m learning!
How the powerful benefits of Toastmasters come about
The fascinating part is that much of the learning happens through some very down-to-earth activities, such as these:
- Listening to others speak and suggesting ways to improve
- Learning from the lessons being given by others
- Watching others doing something well that we’re still struggling with
- Focusing on improving one skill at a time, which actually works and avoids feelings of overwhelm
- Standing up and giving prepared presentations
- Giving impromptu mini-speeches (called Table Topics), which is great fun and helps us get better at speaking on our feet
- Being an active listener rather than a passive listener
- Becoming more aware of how you come across to others
- Paying attention to your surroundings
- And so much more…
I used to feel pretty comfortable with my own speaking ability when I joined, but once I joined The Toasted Sandwich, I quickly discovered the benefits of Toastmasters. There was quite a bit of room for improvement, and it happened quickly.
Just as with everything else, you get so much better by simply doing it more often. And not just “doing” it, but doing it with focus and awareness. As they say, practice makes perfect, or, at least, it helps you get a whole lot better.
I have found the learning immense, for example from observing the different styles as well as the effect that words and gestures have. I also came to appreciate the power of listening. I became quite aware of how much of a lazy listener I used to be in the past.
Toastmasters offers different ways to build skills
Some of the most valuable lessons came from taking on the various roles involved in running the meetings. Some of them may seem like basic tasks, such as timing a speech, counting the ahs and uhms and the pro-longed pauses. Some can be a bit more challenging, such as having something useful to say when its my turn to give feedback.
Am I a better communicator now than I’ve been before I joined? Yes, definitely. Even something as simple as counting the ahs and uhms has made me realise how important it is to listen to every word and not switch off in conversations generally.
When speaking to people, the other person wants to be heard and acknowledged, and I have improved dramatically in my interactions with colleagues and friends alike. I have also become much more aware of my previous lack of skill in this area, and I really appreciate how much of a difference Toastmasters has made.
Not that everything is perfect just yet. It’s a gradual process, but every now and then I have an a-ha moment where I notice that there has been quite a bit of progress!
As I continue my journey, improvements will continue as well… not just when it comes to speaking in public, but in my overall ability to be an effective communicator, which includes listening and giving feedback to friends and colleagues.
Indeed, I have found that the benefits of Toastmasters go far beyond simply improving your speaking skills. It enhances your overall communication skills, and your leadership skills as well.
How can YOU benefit from Toastmasters?
If you’re interested in becoming a better speaker and communicator, or in improving your leadership skills, Toastmasters is a great place to practise and build those skills. The powerful benefits of Toastmasters will be yours for simply joining and participating in our club!
Many of the members are in leadership roles in their respective companies. Some have mentioned that they are much more confident with being able to stand up in public now.
One person, for example, commented on how he stood up and spoke out at his child’s school meeting recently, while once upon a time he would not have dared to do that. So developing these skills benefits all, whether in business, social, personal life etc.
If you’d like to know more about Toastmasters or would like to stop by for a visit, just call me, Michael Crane, on 07957 365 277 for a chat on the phone or in person in the Java Coffee Shop. We meet every Wednesday between 12 Noon and 1 PM. Currently we’re on the 1st floor in Discovery Park House.
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