Why are you not doing Toastmasters?

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The headline makes an assumption, I suppose. But before you dismiss it with, “I am doing Toastmasters,” stick with me and read past the first three paragraphs. I can anticipate that you might have one of three reactions.

‘What is Toastmasters?’

Toastmasters is a club-based organization in which members help each other to foster effective communication and leadership skills. They have been around since the 1920s, and are the most cost-effective means for personal development. Members (of which there are currently over 300,000) improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 15,400 clubs in 135 countries that make up their global network of meeting locations. You can find a club at their web site.

‘I’m already good at public speaking’

You can be better. I don’t care what level you are now, you can “level up” using Toastmasters. Plenty of professional speakers continue to attend Toastmasters because it is a good laboratory–a place to try out new material or new techniques and get knowledgeable feedback. It’s a great place for both beginners and experts.

‘I’m already doing Toastmasters’

Are you really? Are you taking full advantage of your membership?

It amazes me how many people will work through the first manual, achieve the CC designation, and then quit. That reminds me of the kid who attended first grade on the first day, who came home despondent. His mom asked him what was wrong. The kid said, “We have to go back for more tomorrow!”

It also amazes me how few people take advantage of training opportunities, contests, and conferences. I attended the District 63 Spring conference last weekend (which sparked this post), and it was a great experience. Simply being surrounded by such positive, upbeat people all weekend made it worthwhile. Plus, the food was good. But I got to learn from speakers who are masters of their craft. I got to help others who are pursuing excellence. I saw speakers sharpening their skills (and inspiring me in the process) through taking part in contests. I got re-energized.

But out of over 3,000 members in our district, fewer than (I’m guessing) 200 attended the conference. I know there are lots of real-life reasons that interfere. I haven’t made every single conference in years past. But I have made most of them, because I find them valuable.

It’s quite possible that you are in Toastmasters, but you’re not really doing Toastmasters. I don’t mean this in terms of obligation; I’m talking about a missed opportunity.

‘So, now what?’

Seriously. Check out the clubs in your area. They meet on different days at different times of day. Some are associated with a particular company. Some are made up of older people, some of younger people. If a particular club doesn’t meet your needs, try another one, or start one of your own. (Contact me if you need help with that.) There is no other opportunity more affordable and more useful. And if you’re already in Toastmasters, then make it work for you! Treat yourself.

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Author: Donn King

Donn King works with people who want to forge top-notch speaking skills to increase their influence and impact so they can advance their career or business. He is associate professor of communication studies at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, as well as a speaker and writer. His background includes ministry, newspaper, radio, small magazines and other publications, as well as co-authoring a textbook and blogging.