As time passes we either expand our circle of interests or let it contract. Contracting our circle is easy and safe; expanding it takes effort. Toastmasters is a safe way to step out of our comfort zone.
One reason that Toastmasters is safe is that your are part of a team. I felt the support the members had for each other from the get-go. Safe is not the same as no competition. If competition motivates you, you can join contests. If the thought of losing demotivates you, there is no pressure to compete. The informal competition at club meetings is what you make of it. All competition and Toastmaster titles aim for improvement.
Toastmasters allows you to face the fear of public speaking at your own pace. Start by listening to other people’s speeches and watching them grow. Listen to evaluations and see that everyone has room for growth. Speak at every meeting. Socialize. Encourage others. Take on a small role such as “Report of the Timer.” Introduce yourself with a joke as the Jokemaster and follow up with your Ice Breaker speech. Try to speak at every meeting. The Word of the Day and Grammarian are other opportunities to speak in front of people. When my career involved frequent speaking I kept my fear well under control and settled down after the first minute; when there were gaps between speaking engagements the tension rose.
Listening is another important life-skill. Volunteer for the role of Grammarian; it develops listening and speaking skills. The Grammarian listens closely to all the speeches, synthesizes the results and quickly develops a readout. A minute of advance preparation and jotting down notes is much more effective than giving an ad-hoc readout. When you aren’t the Grammarian listen to other people’s speeches with a new ear. Other speeches often provide a mirror in that I hear things that I either like or dislike in my own speeches. I am encouraged by hearing how others rebound from errors. Listening to evaluations provides insights into what others think are important in speeches. Performing quiet shadow evaluations sharpens listening skills and helps internalize improvement ideas.
Grow with Toastmasters. Stretch yourself at every meeting. Share your experience on the Toastmasters District 83 Blog.