Yesterday I made a decision to help further my own education in public speaking. I attended my first Toastmasters meeting. For those of you who don’t know who the Toastmasters are, Toastmasters is an organization whose sole purpose is to help people be more confident and comfortable in front of an audience. I’ve also decided to create a series of articles based on my experiences with my local Toastmasters group.
This is Day 1.
It’s about 6:00 PM on Monday, July 21st, 2008. I’m sitting on my couch, barely paying attention to the movie that’s on (I think it’s”Live Free or Die Hard”). I’ve been staring at the clock on the cable box for about 10 minutes. I’ve finally realized that I’m a little nervous. The reason: I’m going to my first Toastmasters meeting. I’ve done some research and I have a pretty good idea of what to expect. But for the first time in a long time, I actually have a little nervous energy. It’s kind of like the first day of school. I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m ready.
I arrive at the YMCA (where the meetings are held) about 15 minutes early (according to the web site, it’s so I can meet some of the members). By the time I got to the door, my nervous energy was replaced with excitement. I feel like a little kid again: not sure what is going to happen, but ready to have fun. I’m greeted by friendly faces and handshakes. I introduce myself to everyone: John, Mike, Adam, and Nelia (I hope I’m spelling her name correctly). Nelia’s son and her foreign exchange student are also there. I take a seat next to Mike.
The meeting begins. It’s very structured (reminds me of my fraternity meeting days – rules, procedures, etc.) but somewhat informal. There’s a lightheartedness to the whole thing. I already feel comfortable being here.
The night’s theme strikes a cord with me: “Coping with change”. Adam (playing multiples roles tonight) talks about change, coping with the stress associated with it, and how to manage that stress. Mike gives a great talk about his experience with golf (he’s extremely animated and keeps my attention for the entire 7 minutes of his speech).
Vlad, who seems to be the youngest member, leads the table talk discussion on change. He even calls on me to talk (for only a few minutes) about a positive change in my life. I accept the invitation and make my way to the front of the room. This is why I came here, this is what I wanted to learn. Now I have to think on my feet and actually make sense for the next two minutes.
I wasn’t nervous about speaking. I wasn’t nervous about being in front of this group of strangers. I was actually nervous that I wasn’t going to make any sense with the story I wanted to share. But, as it turns out, thinking on my feet is a skill I have. I spoke for almost 2 minutes. When I was done I was rewarded with applause. What a great feeling!
We continued with some formal business and then concluded the meeting. I stayed for a while after the meeting was over and spoke to Mike and Adam about the club and what was next. I got some literature and an application. I am happy to say that the next meeting, in early August, I will be handing in my application.
Toastmasters will help me sharpen my skills as a public speaker. For those who still have a fear, this is a great place to practice in a warm, friendly, helpful environment. Toastmasters will be a great place for you to practice your speaking and to help you sharpen your skills.
For more information about Toastmasters, go to www.toastmasters.org.