It has been four years since I joined Toastmasters, but I remember how excited I was to be in a club with people from my community who were interested in improving their speaking skills. I also remember how confused I was.
Here are three things I learned that helped me in my Toastmasters Education Journey.
Focus on what you know:
Toastmasters knows that people are nervous. That’s why the first speech is an Icebreaker. They want you to focus on what you know.
Who is more expert on you than you are?
No one, that’s who. (Okay, maybe your mother, but unless she is in your Toastmasters club, you’re the best expert there.)
As I was going through the speeches, I learned that it was easier to speak when the topic was something I knew a lot about. I did not give the same speech ten times–much to my club’s relief, I am sure! But I did concentrate on the things I knew.
I talked about my life, my education, and my teaching. I shared the most interesting talks I had ever given to my students–with catchy titles like “Are English Teachers Sadists?” (The short answer is no.)
Eventually I gave speeches on other topics, many related to Toastmasters specifically, but not all.
You don’t have to know everything:
Some members of my club had been part of Toastmasters for decades. They knew a lot about Toastmasters.
Because they knew so much, sometimes it felt as if they threw out acronyms like they were beads at a Mardi Gras parade.
Members in my club talked about:
Okay, not the last three. (Too bad! I knew what those meant.)
I found out what all those letters meant eventually, but long before I did, I realized that it didn’t matter if I knew exactly what they were referring to.
That helped me not stress out so much during the meetings.
Bring the manuals:
My club didn’t stress the leadership track and we had no mentor program, so I had to figure out Toastmasters on my own.
It’s not hard to figure out that you need to bring your Competent Communicator manual to club. You can’t get an evaluation without it.
But many people never finish their Competent Leadership (CL) manual, even though they have a role at every meeting, because they don’t bring the manual.
It took me a while to realize that I should bring the CL manual to every club meeting.
Now I tell my clubs, my mentees, and all new members, “Bring your manual. Give someone your CL manual every time you do something in club.”
One club I visited passes their CL manuals to the right at every meeting. That means EVERYONE brings a CL manual to every meeting. That’s a good practice.
Those were the three lessons I learned fairly early:
- Focus on what you know.
- You don’t have to know everything.
- Bring your manuals.
If you are new, I hope they will help you. If you are in a club with a new member, share these with them.
We’re going online with Pathways and I don’t know what the three basic lessons I’ll learn there are, but I am looking forward to them.