Sometimes life gets too busy and I can't make it to a Monday evening meeting. But whenever I can, I'm going to hop in the car at 6:40 pm and head to the meeting of GSU Baton Rouge Toastmasters. I keep coming back for ten reasons. For the same ten reasons, you should consider visiting your local Toastmasters club.
I can still get better at public speaking. In fact, I have a long way to go before I can consider myself a master of the art. I go to Toastmasters because it is a supportive and positive learning environment.
I like seeing my friends there. Our local Toastmasters club draws 15 to 20 attendees each week. I wouldn't know any of these very cool folks if not for Toastmasters. The club has become a circle of friends who only want two things: to improve their own speaking, and to help me improve mine.
The speeches are great. It doesn't matter if we are hearing a member's first speech, or her 50th speech. Every speech gives me a window into the life of the speaker. I'm fascinated by people, so every speech feeds my curiosity.
I get the chance to introduce new people to the wonders of public speaking, whether it's by chatting with them at a meeting, or mentoring them as they work through the speaking projects.
It helps my hone my ability to speak clearly and succinctly on surprise topics. All of us have the need, at times, to respond quickly and intelligently to unexpected questions. The Table Topics portion of each meeting gives me the opportunity to practice that skill.
It helps me more clearly and quickly explain what I do (business and leadership coaching) to others. The more practice I have with Table Topics (see #5) the easier it is to tell folks what I do.
It sharpens my ear. When I take on one of the ancillary roles (ah counter, grammarian, word-master) it sharpens my ear. I'm on high-alert throughout the meeting, listening for specific things. In turn, that listening practice has improved my ability to listen closely and carefully to my coaching clients.
It tones my critical thinking muscles. When I take on an evaluator role (evaluating one of the speeches, or evaluating the entire meeting), I practice spotting positives and negatives and feeding those back to the speaker in a positive and supportive manner. This mirrors the sort of analysis and feedback every supervisor should be giving to his team members - timely, specific and supportive.
It gives me a place to be helpful. I don't currently hold any formal leadership roles in our chapter, so I am not required to do anything but show up. But I get great pleasure arriving early on occasion, and helping get the room set up. And I love to greet visitors and show them the ropes. I like to help others, and our chapter meetings give me the opportunity to do that.
Okay, the real reason I keep coming back: It's a ton of fun. That's it - it's just plain fun.
You might enjoy Toastmasters. It doesn't cost anything but your time to find out. If you are in the Baton Rouge area, visit GSU Baton Rouge Toastmasters any Monday at 7 pm. If you live away from here, go to the Toastmasters International site to find a club near you. We're all over the world, so there is sure to be one near to you.
If nothing else, I can promise it will be fun.