Since 2006, I’ve been a member of an organization called Toastmasters International. It’s an international organization dedicated to helping people improve their communication and leadership skills. In essence, it’s a club dedicated to public speaking.
Usually, when I tell people about Toastmasters, they give me a look that tells me that they think I’m crazy. That may be true, but I get a lot of value out of my Toastmasters membership. I have a lot of reason for going back every month, but here are my top five reasons, in completely random order.
There’s a Guaranteed Audience
Becoming a great public speaker doesn’t happen through osmosis. You have to actually put yourself out there and do it. Toastmasters is a great place to practice because there’s a guaranteed audience, people who will be there to watch, listen and evaluate what we say. We can talk all day in front of a mirror, but unless we get feedback, this is wasted effort. Toastmasters guarantees a room full of people to practice with.
It’s A Safe Place To Fail
The art of speaking can be messy. Not every idea works and not every word combination is the right one. Like any performer, I’d rather make my mistakes in practice than on game day. Toastmasters gives me a safe place to practice and sometimes fail in a friendly environment.
There’s Practice Receiving Feedback
Every speech in Toastmasters is evaluated by another member. That means they watch us speak and then coach us in front of the group for improvement. If this sounds terrifying, I understand. Most of us are uncomfortable receiving feedback. Toastmasters is an opportunity to practice receiving it.
There’s A Learning Opportunity
Watching and listening to others speak is a great way to learn more about the art of communication. It’s also a great way to learn about topics that I would have never researched on my own. We have a member in my club that loves horror movies and I learn more about this genre every time he gives a speech. I would never put the time into researching the things he’s taught us, but I’ve learned it because I’m in toastmasters.
The Networking Is Great
Lastly, I’ve found Toastmasters to be a great way to make friends. It’s inspiring to be around people committed to their improvement and that’s what you get at Toastmasters meetings. Not everyone has the same skillset and not everyone is on the same level, but its friendly and everyone cares for one another. It really is a great networking opportunity.
It’s a mistake to think that Toastmasters can replace quality coaching, but that has never been its purpose. It is, however, a great place to practice, to fail, to take feedback, learn and to make friends. It’s a pretty great experience that gives much more than it costs. If you’re interested in more information, send me a message, I’d love to talk to you about it!