- One of our guests this week asked me a question that has been posed many times, and so I thought I would post an answer here.
The simple answer is to come as little, or as often as you like. The more you come the quicker you will benefit.
The bigger question is how often do I need to come to learn and grow as a public speaker and here the answer is actually even more simple. The more often you come, the more quickly your public speaking skills will improve.
If you think of your Toastmasters journey has one of a succession of speeches over time, that help you learn and grow as a Toastmasters, then you are correct, but you are also missing out on so much that would make that journey more valuable and your skills grow more effectively. Every time you attend a Toastmasters meeting you are going to soak up the ideas, techniques and qualities in the room. The whole Toastmaster agenda is created to ensure that everyone who wants the opportunity will have a chance to speak.
If you are not delivering one of your prepared speeches, then there are plenty of other places where you can take a role and be part of the meeting. Once you have done a few speeches, you can then put your name forward for learning how to do evaluations. This is a whole extra skill and gives you the chance to learn how to create and present an analysis of another person’s speech in a supportive and educational way. Evaluating others is the fastest way to pick up ideas and techniques for your next speech. Even if you are not the presenting evaluator, every member has the chance to write down suggestions for the speaker on the evaluation slips.
There are other support roles at each meeting;
- Ballot Counter
All these roles are supporting the meeting and give you a chance to explain the role, which means giving a short and succinct speech. Another skill to practice.
The next big role at Toastmaters is the warm-up. This is a chance to give an interesting, but not too challenging a question to the audience. Then, manage everybody’s participation. Which also makes this a good starting point for the next two big roles.
Running the table topics session is like running a mini-meeting within the main meeting. You need to introduce and explain table topics, bring on all the speakers and keep it running. This is a great challenge for speaking and leading.
Once you are confident to the roles of table topics and warm-up you can put your name forward to be Toastmaster. It is then your responsibility to organise all the speakers, evaluators and role and then manage the whole meeting. This role is usually one of the last you will take on and probably not be asked more than once or twice a year. It is hard work, but very rewarding when you do it.
The other two major roles are the table topics evaluator and general evaluator. Again these are roles you will not be asked to take up till you are a confident evaluator, but when you have the chance they are again very rewarding.
Of course, Epsom speakers is just one of thousands of Toastmaster clubs around the world and is this part of south London, there are many clubs slightly further, but within reach. I estimate that around 20% of Epsom Toastmasters currently visit or are members of another local club. This gives them twice or more Toastmaster meetings in their year. I myself are pretty regular at
- Epsom Speakers (my home blub)
- Reigate THetoric (a new club)
- Tandridge Communicators (just started and not yet chartered)
- Sutton Speakeasy (infrequently recently;-(
That means I have around 1.5- 2 meetings a week. Instead of the once a fortnight. My experience of Toastmasters and my public speaking skills are therefore growing at a faster rate and my 18 months of membership is more like 3-4 years of experience.
So the question has to be, what do you want to learn at Toastmasters? There is so much more on offer than just the chance to overcome the nerves of public speaking.
- The more often you can come, the more quickly you will learn.
- There is no pressure to take on extra roles, you take them when you are ready for your next challenge. However, the more involved you become the more skills you will pick up.
- Just being at a meeting will give you the experience and understanding better the reading any book or training video. There are plenty of ways to be involved, even if that is just the warmup and table topics.
- Gain a different perspective by visiting another club. You don’t have to go there regularly, but I promise you will be warmly welcomed. You may even be asked if you want a guest role.
- We have not even touched on the committee roles that organise and manage the club for the members.
Contact me, or another member of the committee if you want to discuss some aspect of the Toastmasters which you want to know more about.