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3 Lessons I’ve Learned From 4 Years Of Toastmasters

Imagine skyrocketing your personal development…

How would you feel to have confidence in yourself, chances for career advancement, and excellent communication skills to take advantage of opportunities? These are just a few of the benefits that come from joining a Toastmasters club.

I joined Toastmasters in 2017.

However, I was an on-again, off-again member until I rejoined (for good) in 2023. Toastmasters has been instrumental in my development. In today’s post, I’m going to share how Toastmasters has changed my life and why you should find a club near you.

But first, you may be wondering…

What Is Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International is a worldwide nonprofit educational organization.

It has a far-reaching impact, with more than 355,000 members in 16,000 clubs scattered across 143 countries. This worldwide network focuses on personal and professional growth through the development of public speaking and leadership skills.

Members have the opportunity to give speeches and get instant feedback on their presentations.

Every local Toastmasters club has a welcoming audience and a structured meeting agenda. As a result, you can practice your public speaking skills in a supportive environment and get feedback on each speech. This process helps you deliver excellent presentations outside of your club.

You’ll feel confident speaking at business conferences, charity events, or even other Toastmasters clubs.

My Toastmasters Journeyspeaking at a toastmasters club

This organization has contributed so much to my life.

In my combined four years as a Toastmaster, I have grown immensely as a speaker, presenter, and person. And it all began at the club you see in the image above. I joined my first club, Speakmasters, at the University of Calgary in 2017.

I delivered countless speeches there before the club was shut down due to the pandemic in 2020.

It was at this club that I built my foundation and confidence as a speaker. Moreover, this club also helped me to see how this organization was open to anyone interested in developing themselves personally and professionally.

International Toastmaster

I never would have thought this organization would be so hospitable anywhere I went. However, that seemed to be the case. The interesting thing about Toastmasters is that the organization upholds its values no matter where you visit.

Every club I’ve visited—whether here at home or abroad—has been warm and welcoming. Here are a couple of examples…

San Diego, California

The video above was taken during my visit to a Toastmasters Club in San Diego, California, back in 2019. During this trip, I explored the city, saw the tourist attractions, and connected with a couple of fellow Toastmasters at this club.

They chauffeured me around town, educating me on the various highlights and attractions that San Diego has to offer. I genuinely enjoyed my visit, and it was made infinitely better because of the friendly fellow Toastmasters members who enhanced the experience.

Singapore, Southeast Asia

In early 2023, I made my way to Southeast Asia, specifically Singapore. During my stay, a friend (who was also traveling through Asia and is also an active Toastmaster back home) and I decided to visit a club.

It was located in a luxury 5-star hotel.

This club had it all: finger food, a large stage, a banquet-style room, etc. I jumped up on stage during the Table Topics session and gave an impromptu speech.

And the best part?

I ended up winning that evening for the best Table Topics speech. It was an incredible experience to see how Toastmasters is done in Asia. And it made me realize how remarkable this organization is.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

Feeling the excitement of giving that speech in Singapore and winning it reawakened my love for public speaking. I initially wanted to be a speaker before getting into writing. However, due to the 2020 pandemic, I sidelined that ambition as I wasn’t sure when or if things would return to normal.

However, when I returned to Canada, I made a commitment to delve back into public speaking.

What I’ve Learned From Being A Toastmaster

There are a few essential life lessons I’ve taken away from my four years as a Toastmaster. Here they are:

1. How To Take Constructive Criticism

After all the speeches in a club meeting are presented, we have what’s called the “Evaluation” portion of the meeting. It’s here where our skills are put on the chopping block. Each speaker undergoes an evaluation by another club member who gives the speaker feedback.

None of it is malicious or negative.

But the speaker is informed of what they did well, and where areas of improvement are. This allows the presenter to discard or improve what’s not working and keep what is. Being “under the microscope” during evaluations has taught me how to take constructive criticism without getting offended or upset.

Great skill for everyone to have.

2. How To Give Constructive Criticism

Along with giving many presentations at Toastmasters Club, I have also given many evaluations. As a result, I’ve learned how to GIVE constructive criticism to others. And believe me, this is an essential life skill everyone should learn.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Begin with praise: Before you criticize anyone for what they’re doing wrong, start with what they’re doing right! Seriously. If you jump down their throat, berating them for their shortcomings, their walls and defenses will instantly go up, as they will (naturally) feel like they’re being attacked. However, when you start with something positive they’re doing, they’ll be much more likely to hear you out since you “softened the blow” with your initial praise.
  2. Make your criticism: Now, you can make your criticism. Ensure you have solid points of reference for why you’re making your case. If you can’t back up why you’re criticizing someone, the criticism loses “weight” and validity. So, have your talking points lined up.
  3. End on a positive note: End on positive terms. Give them more praise or commend them on something else. This step will leave people feeling good about the interaction with you, and they’ll be more likely to actually take what you said on board as a result.

3. How To Communicate Confidently And Effectively

Public speaking is all about effective communication.

And effective communication is the bridge that connects people mentally and emotionally. It creates synergy. Toastmasters has improved my communication skills better than almost anything else in my life. The weekly club meetings have given me confidence in the workplace, at home, and in my everyday life.

I can hold court during confrontations, call people out when my boundaries are crossed, remain composed in the face of conflict, etc. And Toastmasters played a big role in helping me reach this point in my life.

Key Takeaway

Few things have stood the test of time and really gone the distance in my life. However, Toastmasters stands as an example of one of those things. For this reason, I can confidently say I’ll be a proud Toastmaster for the remainder of my days.

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