Thursday, June 1, 2017

Staying Sharp (my experience with Toastmasters)

"If you don't use it, you lose it".

In junior high and high school, I competed in speech and debate for three years. I devoted 4-6 hours/week at speech and debate club, practicing, strategizing, and coaching other students. I would spend at least one weekend a month at a speech and debate tournament usually starting in November and going through April or May. I spent many hours writing speeches and researching for debate rounds.

All the time and devotion could be stressful for my high school self, but it was mostly a labor of love. I enjoyed breaking to the out rounds, getting recognized for my abilities, and getting better at my communication skills.

After my third year, however, we discontinued the "sport". And since then, I have done very little public speaking.

At work, there is a Toastmasters public speaking club that meets three times per month during lunch hour. I was somewhat familiar with the Toastmasters format and thought I would check it out. After three months of active participation and delivering three speeches to the group, I have already started to reap some of the rewards of practicing the art of public speaking.

In addition to giving speeches, each meeting has leadership roles that need to be filled. These different roles require more practice in public speaking, preparation before the meeting, listening skills, and time management skills. It is another element of creating a club that is a community of people sharpening each others skills and abilities.

I have had a few people tell me that I don't "need" Toastmasters -- that I am already a good public speaker. However, Toastmasters does more than just help me sharpen my public speaking skills and stay fresh when communicating to a crowd. It gives a community to help grow and develop a wide range of people and communication skills. Plus it gives me a social activity during work hours which allows me to do something for myself without taking time away from family. Overall, I would recommend you check out a local Toastmasters group if it sounds intriguing. If you do not click with the first club you attend, try a few other clubs -- there are almost 16,000 clubs in 142 countries to choose from!

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