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If You Hate Public Speaking…Try Toastmasters!

“Because I hate speaking in public!” That was the response of the young woman I sat next to at my first Toastmaster’s meeting recently when I asked her why she joined.  I had noticed that throughout she dutifully took notes in her booklet, offered to comment on other speakers, and volunteered to speak herself. I had to know what motivated her to give up a Monday evening twice a month.

This year is the 85th anniversary of Toastmasters International, which has built the speaking and leadership skills of thousands with minor dues attached.

Many professional speakers I know started their careers with speeches honed at Toastmasters meetings. I had to see for myself!  I was struck by the protocol, respect, and enthusiasm of the club I visited here in Chicago.

When you visit Toastmasters, the first thing you’ll notice is the solid agenda that keeps the meeting ticking and everyone on equal ground. It is one of the best uses of time management I’ve ever seen. You’ll meet the Toastmaster, the Joke Master, the Word Master, the Evaluator, the Time reporter, the Grammar/Ah reporter and more, among other members and guests.  The night I attended there were about 15 young men and 4 women present; this club was located in a trendy north side Chicago neighborhood.

You’ll have a chance to volunteer to speak impromptu in the “Table Topics” section, which, on the night I attended centered on Halloween – trick or treating experiences and feelings about the event.  I applauded those who rose to the occasion to talk about circus peanuts and embarrassing costumes.

I also heard two 5-7 minute “planned speeches” on leadership and travel; before they spoke, the speakers alerted us if they wanted to be evaluated stringently or less harshly – and then we all wrote feedback comments on small cards and silently passed them to the speakers.

The club’s officers ran the show, making us guests feel welcome and allowing us to observe and experience at our comfort level. In closing, here are three reasons to try Toastmasters and to recommend it to your coworkers and colleagues:

  1. To experience a time-tested tradition in speaking that won’t dent your wallet
  2. To meet new people who share your desire to grow as communicators
  3. To use one hour of your time wisely and purposefully focusing only on YOU!

Here is a link to a website I recommend to my clients and students. In this link, Toastmasters tell their stories.

As always, your feedback and comments are welcomed!

  1. Avatar
    Ray Anderson

    Hi Cindi-

    I’ve thought about Toastmasers myself. Haven’t gotten around to it yet. Your blog brought it back to mind….

  2. Avatar
    rob maxey

    Nice job. You make Toastmasters sound very appealing.

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