Last night I went to my first Toastmasters meeting. For those of you who don’t know, Toastmasters is an organization designed to develop public speaking skills and communication skills in general. I had a great time at Toastmasters and I hope to have a great time during their next meeting as well.
Toastmasters is run a little differently than most other organizations designed to teach. Toastmasters tries to be as open as possible in allowing people to get in when they are ready. It presents itself in an open and supportive way that really fosters the learning process. Too many programs in school don’t provide that environment of support and instead focus on criticism and negativity. While negative feedback can be helpful, it doesn’t work if that negative feedback is harsh enough to prevent someone from taking another chance.
In my experiences there are two different strategies for doing something new. The first and most common strategy is to wade. People wade into the water to slowly adjust to the temperature. Other people, like myself, prefer to jump. By jumping into the water you are freezing for a few seconds, but then you have adjusted quickly.
Instead of slowly wading into Toastmasters, I figure I’ll jump right in. That might mean I might freeze for a few seconds but it will bring about the fastest results. More importantly, that jump will mean I can adjust a lot more quickly than someone who decides to wade. Wading is generally the result of fear, so if you can get past that, jumping is usually a better long-term strategy.
I plan to improve my speaking skills as well as my communication skills in general by going to Toastmasters. Communication forms the foundation of anything we do that involves other people. By increasing my own communication skills I can simultaneously improve multiple areas of my own life.
Public speaking is also an exercise in building confidence. Confidence and courage are extremely important factors in terms of the results we get. Public speaking can really strengthen that confidence so you will be able to do more things in the future. Toastmasters provides a unique opportunity to do this.
Most importantly, however, is that Toastmasters is a lot of fun. Whether or not you need public speaking for your career, I believe that you should consider Toastmasters just because it is a fun organization. If you don’t normally consider something like Toastmasters to be a hobby or pastime for yourself, then perhaps you should try something new.
My last Toastmasters meeting went great and I can’t wait for the next one. I would strongly recommend it to anyone as a way to improve your communication skills, build confidence and have some fun. Whether you want to jump or wade in, come for a swim!