All my life I’ve been shy. As a child, I hid behind my younger sister who was the outgoing one. I was a dramatic child and in time I became a hobby actress. I even got a degree in Theater.
You’d think that would make me an extrovert, wouldn’t you?
But actually, I was just hiding behind a character … stepping into another world, another voice, another set of circumstances. This took some courage but it wasn’t as frightening as mingling at parties or speaking up at a meeting.
That all changed when I discovered Toastmasters.
I’d moved from the USA to Germany and wanted to meet people who spoke my language. In 2012, I joined Mercury Toastmasters Berlin, an English language club known for its great speakers.
Everyone was so friendly. At my first meeting, I was called on for Table Topics – spontaneous speaking – and fell in love with the thrill of it. I joined, entered competitions, took officer roles and grew in confidence.
In that first year, I learned so much! The proof came when I decided to emcee my father’s 90th birthday party. Everyone was amazed at how confident I was, how social I was! My Dad was so proud of me. And I had Toastmasters to thank for my transformation.
I watched other members grow too, women and men who went from nervous speakers to competent communicators and leaders. Eventually, I decided to start a new club … Center Berlin Toastmasters. That was in 2015. The club is still going strong and has a reputation for being inviting, supportive, and of high quality.
Toastmasters helped me become a stronger version of myself. It helped me discover my voice and tell my story, rather than taking my lines from a playwright. Joining Toastmasters was the best decision I’ve ever made.
If you want to get the most out of Toastmasters, take every opportunity to speak!
Take a functionary role whenever you are not a prepared speaker. Be a Table Topics speaker. Compete in contests. That’s a very effective way of learning how to control nerves and reach a larger audience. Once you get accustomed to your club environment, visit other clubs. Take a role. Or at least speak up to introduce yourself. Or give guest feedback at the end of the meeting.
We grow confident in the supportive environment of our home club.
To grow, we also need the challenge of facing unfamiliar audiences. So don’t forget to take on club and district leadership roles. These are the key to leaps in your growth process.
Start with small roles on your club Board. Progress to roles with more personal contact – Vice President Membership, Vice President Education, or President. Then go on to serve your District as an Area Director or beyond.
As Area Director, I served 5 clubs, some of them German clubs, a language I am not proficient in. Meeting with these clubs was especially challenging for me. Because they stretched me, they were also especially rewarding.
Many of us enter Toastmasters “to learn to speak without being nervous.” Thinking that we focus on prepared speeches.
But that means we miss out on half the benefits of Toastmasters. Leadership roles are speaking roles. Better speakers are automatically seen as potential leaders.
Pursuing excellence in both communication and leadership will bring you success in Toastmasters, in your personal life and in your career. You’ll be amazed at your growth!