I was recently invited (by another member of my co-working space) to attend a Toast Masters meeting, which was to be held the following evening. I said yes – and two days later I have found myself to be an official member!
My first experience was one of a guest – I had no idea what to expect, but I felt immediately welcomed into the group; even recognizing a couple of faces.
The evening’s events were briefly outlined by the chapter’s president, after he officially called the meeting to order. Key roles were introduced: there was an official speech timer, a grammarian, and others members there to help take specific notes on all of the speakers. Fillers like “um, like, uh” and other words would be counted as each speech was given, and at the end a comprehensive report was to be given to the group. I was smitten.
I had arrived just in time to sign in to the guest book and take my seat next to my hostess. I observed three long skinny evaluation slips in a loose piles on the handful of long skinny folding tables, each of which four members could share, and told I was welcome to fill it out as the three speakers took their turns telling a short six to seven minute extemporaneous speech. I was informed that I could enjoy the talks either with or without participating in a one-minute session at the end of each, when we were given time for a quick note that was to be folded and handed to the corresponding speaker for their own private review.
I have been wanting to join a book club for some time now, yet none of the books or itineraries have spoken to me enough to prompt any action on my behalf.
A group like Toast Masters not only helps facilitate personal growth and a sense of community (the most appealing draw to the idea of the book clubs I never joined) but it also challenges me to be a better public speaker, and to take criticism a bit less defensively. Though I like to think my life would be better with a personal editor or stylist in tow, the truth is I like to do things my own way and have a hard time handling negative feedback. Experience by repetition – I can do this!
Have you ever joined a club that pushed you beyond your personal comfort zone – but you’re glad now that you did it? Please share your experience(s) as I begin my journey into public speaking – something I definitely don’t pride myself on, and that I currently approach with some trepidation.
Maybe I’ll never get over the “fear” of public speaking – but at least I will get a chance to practice and hone my skills in front of a group of supportive peers instead of strangers for the next few go ‘rounds.
Wish me luck!
Until next time,