Toastmasters is the highlight of my month. It’s scary and it’s exhilarating. It’s the one place I can leave my comfort zone and just see what happens. It’s thinking creatively on your feet; it’s taking the lead over and over; and it’s becoming the kind of communicator you once thought was impossibly out of reach. And, more importantly, it’s being there for others as they do the same.
What skills are the hardest to teach? What are most valuable in creating a highly functional, cohesive organization? Which skills are necessary to truly add value and elevate the folks around you to do their best work? Is it clear, confident communication? Empathy? Quick, extemporaneous creativity and problem solving? Being able to lead on the fly? A toastmaster will hit on each of these Every. Single. Meeting.
Toastmasters is global, and the consistent approach to building skills makes it easy to relate to a fellow toastmaster no matter where you are. I recently read an article about one of the most coveted toastmaster groups in NYC. Reading about the meeting, I felt like I was reading about my own club. This shared experience across the global organization furthers the connection between members. In my own club, I’ve not only had the chance to interact with folks from all levels, but I’ve truly gotten to know them. Toastmasters speeches often are very personal. It’s an amazing experience hearing someone share their personal experiences and hopes and fears, all while they are improving themselves in the process.
At Boston Financial, associates use Toastmasters as a safe and realistic forum to improve the way we communicate with coworkers and clients. Boston Financial’s commitment to Toastmasters is evident in both their covering new member fees and also making time for associates to attend meetings. Once a month, the Boston Financial group even extends the experience beyond our core group by sponsoring a company- wide “Open Mic”. This event is video conferenced across four locations, and gives anyone a chance to get up and speak for 1-2 minutes about that month’s topic. Example topics include “How would you invest $1,000,000.00 for the benefit of Boston Financial” or “What is your crazy idea for improving Boston Financial”. The events are not only fun and productive, but are an opportunity for associates to attack their fear of public speaking.
So, how should you think about Toastmasters? Sure, it’s a public speaking organization. But, what is Toastmasters really about? It’s about brand new members getting the courage to volunteer to speak at a corporate conference in front of 150 people. It’s about a new member’s manager seeing such concrete improvement that he stepped in on the phones to cover for her just so that she could continue to attend meetings during tight periods of phone coverage. This kind of improvement is within everyone’s reach. If you have someone wanting to join or are already in Toastmasters, I hope you can be supportive. You won’t regret it.
Don’t have a Toastmasters group at your company yet? You should think about it. Have one but haven’t considered joining? You should.
Don’t take my word for it. There are countless testimonials and I am just one. Take control of your skills. Improve relentlessly. Help others to do the same. Be a Toastmaster.