Able To Say ‘Yes’: Why You Should Join Toastmasters

Note: Yesterday, March 6, Henderson’s Riverbend Toastmasters Club attended the Henderson Rotary Club meeting to present a demonstration meeting. LouAnn Clark was the Toastmaster, I was the speaker, Brad Staton was my evaluator, Stacey Howell was the timer and Kacie Mattox was our Topicsmaster. Upon finishing my speech, I completed all of the requirements for my first award as a Toastmaster: Competent Communicator. Here is the manuscript version of my speech. The actual speech deviated some from this text and there’s always an awkwardness when one presents a reader with words that were originally meant to be heard, rather than read.

rbtm rotary demo 1A few years ago, I attended a fundraising dinner for a local non-profit here in Henderson. Shortly after I arrived at the affair, I was approached by the leader of the organization. He had a simple request. Would I be willing to go to the stage, say a few words of welcome and offer the grace before the meal?

I froze.

“Could you find someone else?” I asked. He did.

And I’ve regretted that ever since.

Mr Toastmaster, Rotarians, fellow Toastmasters and guests, even before I joined Toastmasters, I spoke in public quite regularly. My job in ministry requires me to be a leader, to give directions and to hold a microphone on an almost weekly basis. Yet I was unable to summon the confidence that would allow me to speak, unrehearsed, in front of a large group on that occasion.

When I was asked to come to the first meeting of Riverbend Toastmasters, I came to support our organizer and sponsoring member, LouAnn Clark. I stayed because I realized how much I needed the group. Today, I want to share some of the many reasons to say yes to Toastmasters.

You anticipate that I’ll tell you about how toastmasters will improve your speaking skills, so we’ll start there.  If you often find yourself at a podium, in front of a microphone, on a stage, or in the head position at a meeting–OR if you would like to be a person in any of these positions, you would benefit from being a Toastmaster! During each meeting, many people have the opportunity to address the group. Several times a year, yes, you will have the opportunity to give a speech on a topic of your choosing, but much more often than that, you’ll have the opportunity to fill other speaking roles that are important in our meeting environment, which means we all get lots of practice. if you say “ah” or “um” often when you speak, forget to stand up straight, have trouble speaking slowly or loudly enough, have trouble staying on topic or simply wish you had a better presence when addressing a group, Toastmasters can help!

Toastmasters will improve your ability to carry conversations in all situations. Most of the speaking you do in life is conversational and not prepared ahead of time. At toastmasters we practice this every week. In a few minutes, our Table Topics master will lead us in an exercise of impromptu speaking. For some, it’s the most challenging part of the meeting, yet we can all admit it’s a very useful part of the meeting as we practice being able to respond to questions we have not prepared to answer. If you would like to become better at speaking around the water cooler, in your boss’ office or when making small talk at parties or networking functions, Toastmasters will most definitely help you!

Often in life, listening and being able to give effective feedback is important. At Toastmasters we give attention and feedback each week in the form of our paper evaluation ballots, our Ah Counter, Grammarian and Timer reports and our speaker evaluations from the podium—you’ll see that later when …… evaluates this speech. At Toastmasters, we all start out offering “I liked your speech” types of comments. as we get more comfortable we learn how to bring out the good words alongside of suggestions for improvement. At Toastmasters we learn how to constructively criticize and help each other become better communicators. If you are someone who regularly offers feedback and evaluation, you will develop those skills and learn how to do it in a way that effectively brings improvement.

Riverbend Toastmasters not only offers all of the development opportunities I’ve already mentioned, it does it in an environment that is fun and encouraging. Coming to Toastmasters each week is a pick-me-up. The room is often filled with laughter and it is always filled with applause. In this group, I’ve expanded my professional network and I’ve made new friends who are helping me become the best version of myself.

A couple of months ago, I was at another dinner, standing in a room full of people. A familiar thing happened—the host asked if I would say grace. I flashed back to the fundraiser several years ago, remembering my refusal. But this time, I said yes. I said it confidently. I said it without fear. I know it’s because of Toastmasters. I hope that if you have not already, that you will join me on this journey and become better able to say ‘yes’ to the things that challenge you!