Toastmasters has been a public speaking platform to millions of people in its 90+ years of existence.
When you join Toastmasters, your goal is to become a more effective communicator. But many times, this goal gets side-lined.
There are three types of people who DON’T get the most out of their Toastmasters membership:
- Those who join and quit/stop attending meetings almost immediately
- Those who are members for a long time but don’t really go up on stage and deliver speeches
- Those who give a lot of speeches but never really improve
There have been SO many people who join and stop showing up after attending 4-5 meetings, or people who just take up roles in the organising of the meeting instead of going up on stage, or people who deliver speeches just to finish off the Toastmasters curriculum instead of ensuring that they are learning and improving with every speech.
Here are a few ways to actually become a more effective communicator and get the most of out of your Toastmasters membership:
Grab Every Stage Opportunity
Whether you are a member or a guest, every meeting has some opportunity for you to go up on stage and speak. It could be delivering a speech, taking up a role, improvising a Table Topic speech or even going up and introducing yourself.
It’s completely natural to be scared of going up on stage, but remember, Toastmasters is a platform where you can fail, experiment, get feedback and try again.
Go up on stage whenever you get the chance. Give speeches regularly. If you don’t have a speech prepared, take up a role or attempt a Table Topic.
Grab every stage opportunity and slowly but surely, you will see yourself becoming more and more comfortable with the stage.
Find a Mentor
I cannot stress this point enough. Having a mentor, or even multiple mentors has immensely helped me improve my public speaking.
Toastmasters has a system in place where they assign mentors to every new member. That’s great but you don’t have to stop there.
Keep an eye out for speakers who you truly look up to. When you’re preparing for your next speech, go up to them and ask them if they would be willing to give some advice to you on your speech.
In most cases, they will happily agree! Work with them while you prepare your speech. Share a speech draft with them, send them a video recording of you practicing your speech. After you do deliver the talk, ask them for feedback.
Having the right mentor is one of the most effective ways to receive reliable feedback and help you track your progress as a speaker.
Be a Mentor
After being a member for more than a year or so, mentor a new joinee. Help them to prepare for their first speech, guide them through the curriculum, give more evaluations. The way this helps you is that it builds your feedback giving skills.
To guide someone on how to become a good speaker, you must first know what is good and bad in the first place.
Being a mentor can help you dive into the nitty-gritty of what a good speech is really all about. It will help you train and guide someone which in turn, makes you a better speaker as well.
Visit Other Clubs
One con of giving speeches at your Toastmasters club is that you are delivering talks to the same audience. This can make you comfortable on stage (and not in a good way).
However, one pro of Toastmasters is that when you become a member of one club, you are eligible to attend any club in the whole world!
Take advantage of this and deliver your speech at multiple clubs. Different audiences and different venues will teach you different things.
It also allows for an opportunity for you to repeat your speeches which is highly valuable. Instead of preparing a speech and delivering it once, you can deliver it multiple times in different venues.
This is an understated rule which really helps you build up your skills since you are delivering a speech – receiving feedback – improving upon it – and delivering it again.
Participate in Contests
Toastmasters offers opportunities that can literally take you international. Contests like the International Speech Contest gives speakers the opportunity to compete on a global level.
Winning competitions such as the ISC, Table Topics contest, Humorous Speech contest etc. not only add great value and credibility to you as a speaker but also give you the chance to speak on larger stages in front of larger audiences.
Deliver Educational Sessions
A Toastmasters meeting is divided into 3 parts – the prepared speeches, the Table Topics (impromptu speaking) and the evaluation round.
But many meetings include an educational session on various topics such as how to write a speech, how to give an evaluation, how to practice for speeches etc.
Make sure you keep an eye out of for these sessions – in your club as well as other clubs in your city. They are usually conducted by senior members who are (in most cases) AMAZING speakers.
After you’ve become an experienced member, take a shot at conducting an educational session yourself! The process of preparing for it and delivering it has a lot of valuable lessons in terms of communication.
Set Personal Goals
Although the Toastmasters curriculum is already designed with the aim to make everyone a better speaker, you should have some personal goals for your Toastmasters journey.
Don’t just state a goal such as “I want to become a better speaker” or “I want to get over my fear of public speaking”. Be more specific.
Speaking consists of so many things, which one do you want to improve upon – body language, voice modulation, speech content, humour?
Have specific goals and work towards them instead of working towards simply completing speeches. Your speaking will improve much more drastically in a shorter amount of time instead of just giving speeches aimlessly.
Stop Aiming for the Credentials. Aim to Become a Better Speaker
Many Toastmaster members give speeches just to finish the curriculum. They rush across their speech projects one-by-one with the aim to just complete them – not to actually deliver good speeches.
This is why, many times, we see speakers who are DTMs (Distinguished Toastmasters) who are, in reality, not good speakers.
Instead, deliver speeches with the intention to become a better speaker. It doesn’t matter how many projects you complete as long as you are improving with every speech.
Toastmasters is truly a wonderful organization. Its platform has made me a tremendously better speaker than I ever hoped to be. But time and again, I see so many people who join the club but don’t really reap the rewards that they can. Join Toastmasters with the intention to grow as a speaker and by using the points above, after a few months, you will truly see a change in yourself.