Public speaking – as a concept – has fascinated me ever since I was a child.
They say the heart yearns for what it cannot get – and growing up as a timid child and watching people around me engage in deep and meaningful conversations in social settings and at major public events, pushed me to emerge out of my shell of solitude and master the art of public speaking.
Years went by and I took up opportunity after opportunity to hone my presentation and communication skills – and all the while I was unaware of a certain global organization that has existed since 1924, and specializes in giving a voice to the voiceless.
It was in January of 2017 where I was first exposed to a Toastmasters meeting. As it was something novel to me at the time, the premise fascinated me – a meeting conducted by a club every week with the singular goal to give members the opportunity to build self-confidence in themselves and the way they communicate.
‘So cool’, I thought to myself. This was something I could really get into.
Two years later, and I am a full time member of one of Bangalore’s finest community clubs (HSR Toastmasters – feel free to swing by if you’re in the area). And over the course of my last one year as a Toastmaster, I’ve been able to identify three main reasons why Toastmasters is the right place to be for anyone unaware of it.
Ready, stranger? Well, let’s just jump right in –
A platform to develop your communication skills
Little Johnny is always the forgotten soul at every party he attends. Or maybe he is missing out on promotions at office because, irrespective of his hard work, his poor communications skills have left him helpless – as more charismatic and vocal employees overshadow him in the eyes of his boss. Or maybe while waiting in a queue at a McDonald’s, a rude woman cuts in front of him and, in an attempt to not make a scene, decides to let it slide and let her get her Big Mac first.
Toastmasters provides a platform on a weekly basis to take up roles in a meeting (such as delivering a speech, keeping track of the usage of grammar in a meeting, evaluating other speakers, etc) that allow you to not only grow as a speaker, but build your confidence to the point where your speaking skills can be utilized to good effect in real-life situations like the one faced by Little Johnny.
In addition, given the organization has over 350,000 members across 143 countries and around 17,000 clubs – you are bound to run into mind-blowing speakers every now and then who inspire you to push yourself to new heights.
Still not convinced? Watch Mohammad Qahtani’s winning speech from the International Speech Contest in 2015 and jump into the big massive rabbit hole of everything Toastmasters-related from there on out.
Getting accustomed to an environment where critical feedback is the norm
Nobody enjoys getting criticized. Yes, that dress doesn’t suit you. Yes, you need a haircut. Yes, your performance in the last quarter at office was not upto the mark.
But the point of criticism isn’t to entertain – but to give the receiver the opportunity to grow. At Toastmasters, you are given positive and constructive feedback for every role you take up at a meeting. Absorbing the feedback and implementing it in future meetings allows you to climb up the proverbial “ladder” – both as a communicator and as a person – because receiving feedback on a weekly basis gets you acclimatized to an environment of doing, listening, implementing and doing again.
A fantastic platform to network
I’ve made a lot of friends in the Toastmasters fraternity in the last year. Whether it is at a club meeting or even outside of one, you are always guaranteed a good time when it comes to Toastmasters because you’re spending your time with like-minded people with a similar set of goals.
Also, Toastmasters is also an excellent way to build your professional network, as you invariably end up meeting people from all walks of life.
So what do you think?
Is Toastmasters something you’d like to try out? If so, read up on it more on the internet and find a club near you.