Learnin’ to talk good at Toastmasters

Toastmasters collage

When I was in high school, I was a letterman. You might be thinking “how could a person with a disability earn a letter?” I certainly did earn it but it wasn’t in athletics. I lettered three of four years in forensics. I did pretty well in prose (reading a story) but excelled in public speaking.

I lettered in forensics three of four years in high school.
I lettered in forensics three of four years in high school.

I didn’t do any real public speaking again until a few years ago when I volunteered with a friend to speak at a WordCamp. I started leading other seminars including topics such as disability awareness and blogging for small businesses. I felt confident in what I was saying but didn’t feel that I conveyed confidence because I would lose track of what I was saying or have a lot of “ums” and other crutch words.

I had heard about this program called Toastmasters several times and last fall, I decided to join. The first time I heard about Toastmasters, I thought it was a snobby wine drinking club. Boy, was I wrong! I later heard about it again from someone I worked for and realized it was an interesting club that encouraged leadership skills and improving one’s public speaking skills.

Toastmasters membership application

So far, I’ve really enjoyed it. My club is almost an hour’s drive (worked better for me at the time) but it’s worth it. I enjoy the challenge and appreciate the friendships I’ve made. I’ve even won a couple of awards! 

I won Best Table Topics the first time I participated. Table Topics are impromptu speeches where we respond to a prompt from the person leading that segment of the meeting.
I won Best Table Topics the first time I participated. Table Topics are impromptu speeches where we respond to a prompt from the person leading that segment of the meeting.

I admit that I’m a bit behind in my Competent Communications manual. Busyness and sickness has prevented me from advancing as much as I had planned. I think I can still catch up and finish the manual.

The Competent Communicator Manual is a list of about 10 speeches and each one has a different objective. The first one is the Icebreaker and that's where you introduce yourself. Others have objectives such as learning how to organize a speech, how to do research for a speech and how to write an entertaining speech.  I also have the Competent Leader manual but am more focused on the communication component for now.
The Competent Communicator Manual is a list of about 10 speeches and each one has a different objective. The first one is the Icebreaker and that’s where you introduce yourself. Others have objectives such as learning how to organize a speech, how to do research for a speech and how to write an entertaining speech.  I also have the Competent Leader manual but am more focused on the communication component for now.

I already felt comfortable speaking in front of other people, but I feel like I’ve increased the perception that I’m comfortable. I sound more confident therefore I believe it’s given more credibility to my words. I’ve already set the goal to do at least five speaking engagements this year and I already have three done or scheduled. What’s interesting for me is, I’ve recently gone beyond the idea of talking about business. I recently applied to do more of an inspirational type presentation. It feels weird for me and I won’t know for at least a month if I am accepted. But having the bravery and confidence to apply for such a thing is a big deal for me.

1 comment / Add your comment below

  1. I wish I had access to a Toastmaster’s program. I think every nurse should have to take a class. Speaking in public is an important tool that is lacking in many education programs. I applaud you for stepping out to expand your skills.

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