As of the 1 March this year, I have been a member of Toastmasters International for 15 years.
In some ways, it seems a long time, in other ways not. In that time I have:
- Been a member of 4 clubs, and am currently a member of Gledswood Toastmasters
- Achieved the level of Distinguished Toastmaster
- Won two Club and two Area International Speech Contests
- Prepared, written, rehearsed and delivered well over 100 speeches
- Competed in numerous contests
- Served as President of 2 clubs
- Served on a number of Executive committees
- Built a new Toastmasters Club jointly with Rhys Tague, DTM
- Served as a Club Coach of Gledswood Toastmasters jointly with Rhys Tague, DTM
- Served as an Area Director
How has that all benefitted me? Let’s have a look at me prior to joining Toastmasters…
When I joined Toastmasters in 2008, I was 45 years of age. I am a born Introvert who used to get so nervous around people even into my 20’s that my hands would shake if I lifted a drink to my mouth during a conversation. True.
I used to talk around people I knew but if a stranger joined the conversation, I would clam up. True.
Prior to joining Toastmasters, my only instances of getting up in front of people related to Photography. I have been a photographic judge since 1995 and used to judge at 10-12 clubs a year from 1995 through to the early 2010. Even though I was incredibly nervous, my passion for photography, and wanting to help people, had me speaking in front of an audience, evaluating their images.
There were times when I was offered a glass of water etc whilst I was up judging that I declined because people would see the glass shaking due to nerves, so I would politely decline it, even if I was thirsty… True.
A couple of times, I was physically ill prior to judging and often would not eat dinner before I was judging sometimes as I was worried I might be ill. Also true.
Making 2-3 comments on an image is very different to getting up in front of people and delivering a rehearsed or impromptu speech.
The night before I did my Ice-Breaker speech at Campbelltown Toastmasters, I could not sleep, or eat on the day of the speech. Wendy White, DTM, President of the Club at the time and friend, reminded me that ‘Toastmasters is a mutually supportive environment’ and every member knows how you feel as they have been through it.
Some of my nerves did go and I delivered the speech and funnily enough, I didn’t burst into flames!
Joining and committing to the Toastmasters programme has helped me in the following ways:
- Gained greater general confidence
- Am able to control my nerves prior to and during speeches and photographic judging
- Can do things in front of others without getting nervous
- Can walk up to strangers and introduce myself
- Has improved my networking skills
- Has improved my business capabilities
- I have no fear of public speaking now
- I have no fear of taking up leadership roles
- It has made me a better leader
- It has made me a better listener
- I can now evaluate better
- My ability to ‘think on my feet’ (impromptu speaking) has improved
- It improved my performance at job interviews (when I was an employee)
- Has enabled me to write and deliver coherent speeches
- Enabled me to compete and win speech contests (who would have ever thought?)
- Has improved my general writing capabilities
- Gave me the confidence to start writing Poems (over 500 now)
- Opened up opportunities outside of Toastmasters for public speaking including, VIEW, Probus, Photographic clubs, a business conference and Emceeing 3 family weddings
- Has enabled me to have a positive impact on people within and outside Toastmasters
- Has helped me improve my speaking/leadership at my BNI (Business Network International) Referral chapter
Why do I stay?
I stay because of the following 4 reasons:
- Continuing professional development: I can always improve
- Paying it forward: I can help mentor those who are earlier on their journey
- Relationships: I have made a lot of good friends in Toastmasters
- Entertainment: We always have fun at our meetings
I would absolutely recommend joining Toastmasters International, even if you are only looking to improve your general confidence. In doing that, it will open the door to improving you and your performance in a number of ways.
Like everything worthwhile in life it requires discipline, commitment, being open to learning, being prepared to step outside your Comfort Zone and into your Growth Zone, and you can do this whilst having fun!
Here’s to your Toastmasters Journey!
Written by David Johnson
8 April 2023
For more information on Toastmasters International: http://www.toastmasters.org/