Why would someone stay in Toastmasters for 15 years?

I never thought I’d be involved for 15 years! I have always had high goals and being a fantastic speaker is one of my top goals in life.

I was so afraid of public speaking, I would drop a class while going for my Bachelor’s, once I found out giving a speech was a requirement. That sounds crazy to me now. What I wouldn’t give to speak to an audience of 500! My record is 250 and I know someday I’ll break 1000.

If you’ve been counting, that’s 2 reasons I’ve stayed. Though I have my DTM, I’m not the best speaker I can be.

Getting over the fear of public speaking is not easy. It is arguably the hardest fear you’ll conqueror in your life. According to Lominger, Presentation Skills have a development difficulty level of “Moderate” (Political Savvy and Conflict Management are examples of “Hardest”), which means it takes years to be proficient. How quickly you get better depends on many variables, about yours skills, your fear level and your dedication to self learning. I set 2 goals for myself:

    1. Speak at every meeting. Grab a role if I can and ask my mentor how to do it (or look it up). In the “old days,” there was a cute booklet called “A Toastmaster Wears Many Hats” that I could quickly skim in the meeting if I role like I wasn’t comfortable yet. I also volunteered to speak in Table Topics, even if I didn’t know what I was going to say. To me, “winning” was not yet what I said and how I did it, it was just getting up in front of everyone and saying something.
    2. Schedule a speech a month. This ensured I kept working on my skillset by giving a speech a month. Side Benefit: I advanced a Communication Track Award level every year. (Yes, that means now I have more CC’s, ACB, ACS and ACG’s than I can count!).I found myself surprised at the other skills I developed without realizing it!

  1. Listening
    – A 360 peer review assessment about 2 years into joining Toastmasters revealed that my top skill was now listening! I was shocked! It took me a few weeks to figure out that it was because of Toastmasters and trying to listen to speeches while at the same time being Timer, Evaluator, etc. that built this skill.

Leadership – A year after that, about 3 years in, I found myself as a manager of first one person, and then, as a result of people moving out of my area after a re-organization, a manager of 9. With no management experience, just my Toastmaster Officer training and my intuition, I lead that team to have the one of the company’s highest Gallup Engagement scores and the Top Supply Department US Engagement Score for 2 sessions in a row! My team and I were famous for a brief time in our careers, doing interviews with real reporters for our company’s, (Mars Wrigley Confectionary) internal home page. I also was nominated by a direct report for the “Make the Difference Award” and made it to the Regional Competition. All this I attribute to Toastmasters. Being an officer and networking with great leaders like Irene and Arnold Card and Paula & Willy Markert at Conferences gave me a foundation for being a Visionary, Motivational Speaker, and the ability to handle conflict.

I started 2 clubs. I co-started “Skylands Community Club” with Jen O’Hagen when BASF left the International Trade Zone. When my job moved over to the “chocolate-side” of the business in Hackettstown, I started a new company club called “Mars Sweet Talkers”. While Skylands disbanded due to a re-organization at the Mount Olive location where the entire leadership team left the business, “Sweet Talkers” still exists with 35-40 people strong. Mars Wrigley Confectionary strongly supports the group, which has been a key to it’s success. It’s given our Leadership Team valuable visibility to President’s and Vice President’s, that still exists today.

Mars Sweet Talkers is currently working on building-out their mentor program. We’re going from assigning everyone a mentor to giving mentors and mentee guidance and gathering feedback to assess areas of opportunities.

Our biggest challenge has been getting volunteers to take on the President’s role. This year, we were able to successfully transition to a new President and we’ve gone a lot stronger because of it! Our fearless leader, Patti Snyder, focuses on attendance while the club benefits from her passions as a Trainer and Education Leader.

I still can’t do “humor”. It alludes me. I won’t give up, even if it takes me another 15 years!

Mary Verrone, DTM
· 2007 Toastmaster of the Year
· 2011 Area Humorous Speech Contest, 2nd Place
· 2011 Area Speech Contest, 2nd Place
· 2012 Area International Speech Contest, 1st Place
· 2012 Area Evaluation Contest, 2nd Place
· 2014 Area Evaluation Contest, 2nd Place
· 2015-2016 District Administrative Manager

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