The Sum of Many Small Experiences

I was solo-brainstorming to select a topic suitable for my first post in the Matt Report Pro members content creation challenge. I decided I would write about an experience that has made a significant impact on my professional development over a long period of time.

It was instantly clear to me that my decade immersed in the experience as a Toastmasters member would be the right choice.

I joined Toastmasters in 2005. Since my Toastmasters club (#1376, HDR Lawrenceville) meets twice a month–I’ve attended many meetings over the decade. There were two extended periods where I missed meetings due to being selected to serve on grand jury duty and having back surgery. I make my Toastmasters club meeting a priority in my calendar and I have found that attending the meetings consistently continues to help me stretch my skills.

If you are not familiar with Toastmasters here is a two sentence overview:

Toastmasters is a world-wide, self-paced, peer led and driven, communication and leadership program. Toastmasters is celebrating it’s 90th anniversary.

While my reason for joining Toastmasters initially did not specifically include networking to get new clients, I have made new contacts among my fellow club members and several of my business associates have joined over the years.  After most meetings I come away feeling enriched by the experience.

I have held several positions on the club executive board:

  • Secretary
  • Vice President of Education
  • Vice President of Publicity/Marketing
  • President/Immediate Past-President

In our club, we try to create an atmosphere to have fun while expanding our speaking and leadership skills. It is the sum of many small Toastmasters club experiences that has accumulated and given me the confidence to say YES to opportunities which create visibility and make me step beyond my comfort zone.

In my early days as a Toastmasters member I tried out several unconventional ways to deliver my personal introduction at chamber of commerce networking meetings. I have included props and even gave out candy one time. It was a logistical nightmare to give out the candy while speaking, but memorable. I’ve even delivered a teaching session at religious services at my synagogue when the Rabbi was out of town.

When I initially joined Toastmasters I thought my challenges to work on were:

  • using filler words (ah, um, you know etc.)
  • not having anything to talk about (lack of content)

However, after delivering a few speeches, I realized that the skills that I really needed to address were:

  • speaking within the given time allowance
  • reducing my outward displays of nervousness (gripping the lectern and pacing).

I am happy to report that I long since stopped gripping and pacing and learned to channel my nervous energy into activities that instead support the delivery of my content. One of my other goals was to reduce the total amount time needed to create a new speech so I could deliver it with minimal or no reliance on notes. My fellow club members will attest to the fact that I still need to make progress to consistently stay within my allotted time.

I enjoy mentoring new members and seeing how they come up with engaging ways to connect with the audience. The thing I realize I enjoy the most is watching how our members gain confidence to share their voice. Our club members are creative and each has a different speaking style.

I am looking forward to working with the people and programs that will be part of my next decade as Toastmasters member.