The 3 real reasons why people stay with Toastmasters clubs

toastmasters where leaders are madeHave you ever observed people involved into doing something and being very passionate and engaged in that endeavour? Haven’t you wondered why they do what it is they do, what drives them, what could be their motivator? I found myself wondering about that a few days ago and reflected on what I had observed. I am currently serving as an Area Governor with the Founder’s District in Toastmasters International and one of the big benefits is having to meet and interact with hundreds of members in about half a dozen clubs.

I visited a club this past week and I was particularly happy with how the club operated. All members were punctual and it was obvious that they were all committed to making the most of their experience with Toastmasters. Every club in Toastmasters has a unique identity, and what gives the club that unique identity is the mix of different personality types in the members. Regardless of the club you go to, you will always observe one or two members that will make you wonder why they are members, because obviously they don’t need to be in Toastmasters to get stage time and hone their public speaking and leadership skills.

Get past the fact that most club members are involved in self-mastery through continuous learning and self-development, I see the following three reasons as why people join and stay with Toastmasters International.

1. They see themselves in others.

This is particularly remarkable when you attend a club meeting with experienced toastmasters and newer toastmasters in attendance. I have observed that the more experienced toastmasters are very supportive, understanding, forgiving and friendly with less experienced members. That is because they recognize that they had been through those stages themselves. What keeps experienced toastmasters coming is that opportunity to see the less experienced grow and release the great communicators and leaders within them.

2. They want to be part of something bigger.

Most people who are members of Toastmasters International join out of necessity and stay for significance. New members focus on improving themselves  growing bigger than their fear of public speaking. Once they become good communicator and public speakers, the only thing that keeps them from leaving the club or the organization in most cases is the fact that by then have realized that Toastmasters is not only about speaking. It is much bigger than that, it is about relationships, love and care for fellow human beings in a positive and friendly atmosphere.

3. They feel safe and don’t want to venture outside of their clubs.

I think this group probably represent the smallest of all, which is very good. Most people in this group joined because they have a friend or family member in a Toastmasters club and they need help getting over their fear of public speaking. It takes them weeks to give their first speech and years to accept a club leadership role. They don’t leave because they see the improvements, but are not daring enough to accelerate their learning experience. They stay because they don’t believe they can make it in the big league, or simply don’t have any interest, which is fine.

When everything is said and done, I am glad people join and stay with Toastmasters clubs, but I acknowledge there are more reasons why people join and stay. I cannot possibly come up with an exhaustive list and I agree to disagree with those who want to disagree. 🙂 Toastmasters International is a great organization and the educational program offered is unequalled. If you are a Toastmaster club member, do you agree (or disagree) with any of the reasons above? If you are not a Toastmasters International member, why not?

Don’t make these three mistakes when speaking in public

making mistakes for learningIf you are reading this post because the title appealed to you, then the advice I read from about negative titles works. I often speak in public as it is one of my hobbies. As part of my personal growth and development as a speaker, I believe in joining associations and groups of people who are either better speakers or very passionate about public speaking. Last Monday I paid a visit to the Professional Speakers club in Anaheim and having expressed my interest in becoming a member a few months ago, I was offered a speaking spot for the evening.

I had very little preparation, but I accepted the challenge and decided to give a speech that I had given before, but I was to use 20 minutes instead of the 60 minutes I had used in the past to deliver that speech. I quickly sat down, thought about what to take out of the speech and what to leave in. The process was fun and the experience was priceless. I had a great time on stage and at the end of my presentation I had a round-robin evaluation from the club members in attendance. From that single speaking opportunity, here are three of the most valuable lessons I took away:

  • Don’t overload your speech with stories: My speech opened with a story and ended with a call to action. The problem was, I had too many stories for a 20 minutes speech and some of my stories could have been left out if I had spent a little more time expanding on the points the stories were illustrating. Someone in his feedback said I could have used only story and weaved it into my speech, let the story unfold and reveal all the points I was making. That’s a great idea I can’t wait to implement.
  • Don’t call on your audience to participate without warning them: At a point in my speech when I felt I was losing some of my audience members, I did something totally unplanned. I randomly picked audience members and asked them for their input on some of the points I was making. That is a good thing to do when working with a small audience and having had the opportunity before the speech to interact with each of them individually. But even if you know every member in the audience (which won’t happen often the more you grow), calling on people in surprise is not very recommended. Don’t get me wrong, you can ask for someone to volunteer an answer to your question, but randomly picking someone to give you an answer might not be well received.
  • Always acknowledge your audience: I opened my speech with a story and because some of the details of that opening story were not clear in my memory (no time to practice), I stumbled upon a few of its details that were relevant and would have made an impact. Thus, already distracted by those early mishaps, I got off track and forgot to acknowledge my audience. Always remember to acknowledge your audience. It could be with a short or long smile before you begin speaking, or with a simple greeting, or with an opening question. You are speaking to an audience and if you don’t take time to acknowledge them, they might decide not to acknowledge you and begin walking out on you, but that’s an extreme.

For a speech that I gave with not much preparation, I thought it went very well and the feedback I received was great. Speaking without or with little preparation is a challenge I welcome as stage time for me is priceless. Which one of the mistakes above have you made in the past? What are some of the things not to do on your list when speaking in public?