I joined Toastmasters International 11 years ago, to keep my brain sharp, and made a decision that I would only ever speak about topics that I had to research.
You see, I’ve always enjoyed public speaking, so I’m one of those minority groups where speaking in public has always been an enjoyable experience.
But what I didn’t realise was that most of my past speaking had been one day workshops where I had the luxury of time to get my message across.
At Toastmasters, timing of speeches – usually 5 -7 minutes is crucial, and in fact, at competition level you would be disqualified for going over the allotted time. So I found myself on a steep learning curve of speaking succinctly and choosing my words and information carefully so as to keep within the time-frame. This discipline has made me a better speaker and proved to be an invaluable skill. I still have to keep an eye on the timer’s warning lights and can honestly say I’ve probably been the most disqualified speaker in Toastmasters!
I write children’s books professionally and recently I was invited to a school where the students had prepared stories that they wanted to read to me. I gave them individual feedback that included everything they had done well and some points for improvement to add impact to their delivery. Without Toastmasters I wouldn’t have given such comprehensive evaluations.
Toastmasters teaches me many things apart from just delivering a speech, and the learning experience is all done in such a friendly atmosphere with a group of smart, intelligent adults.
It doesn’t matter how tired I feel when I turn out for my Toastmaster meeting, I always come home elated and full of the fun we have had while we’ve all been together.
It’s a buzz that lasts – the memory of a humorous speech that keeps a smile on my face the next day, or an inspiring speech where a club member shares a rich life experience, the growth you see in a shy, inarticulate member – almost by magic!
And yes, I’m still working on keeping the brain sharp! Not sure if I’m winning but I’m enjoying the challenge and meeting a lot of interesting people along the way.