As I look back on my life thus far, I do have some regrets. However, there are a few things I have done right.
One of the best things I have ever done was to join Toastmasters.
From the Toastmaster International website:
…Toastmasters International has grown to become a world leader in helping people become more competent and comfortable in front of an audience. The nonprofit organization now has nearly 260,000 members in over 12,500 clubs in 113 countries, offering a proven – and enjoyable! – way to practice and hone communication and leadership skills.
No one needed Toastmasters worse than I did. On the day of my marriage, I managed to pass out in front of the entire congregation. Really quite humiliating to say the least!
Some time later, I read an article in the ELMIRA INDEPENDENT by then Editor Bob Verdun. He wrote glowingly about the benefits of being part of a Toastmaster Club. This appeared to be exactly what I needed. So, I attended a demonstration meeting.
Toastmasters is not a course where everyone begins and “graduates” at the same time. Rather, a Toastmaster club consists of members at different skill levels. Everyone is there to help each other improve their communication skills and to provide constructive criticism. There are constantly new members joining, and others leaving as they reach their own goals. Some Toastmasters are “lifers” as they enjoy constantly improving their own skills as well as helping others.
After I had been a member of Toastmasters for some time, I finally had the confidence to run for office in the upcoming provincial election in Huron County. As the time neared for the first all candidates meeting, all those feelings of trepidation came back. I feared I was going to black out again. How embarrassing that would be. But, when I got to the podium, I was suddenly at ease. I knew I was going to be OK. As they say at Toastmasters – “my butterflies were flying in formation”! As time went on, speaking in front of an audience became easier and easier.
At the first Toastmaster’s demonstration meeting I attended, I saw some rather polished speakers. I saw others who, like me, needed to work on their skills. But, even the best speakers received suggestions from an evaluator on how they might improve for the next time.
I could “write a book” on Toastmasters, however to best understand how Toastmasters works, I suggest attending one of their weekly meetings where you would be most welcome as a guest. More information to follow shortly, or contact me and I will get back to you with more details.