I feel very lucky to have become involved in Toastmasters. Usually when I mention it, someone will say, “Is that group still around?” Yes, it is. I’ve belonged to a group that meets in Fremont every Wednesday at noon and have successfully worked my way through two and a half of the books of speech assignments they provide.
I first got involved when I was working at the quilt shop. One of my main duties was to sell sewing machines. Now you would think that it wouldn’t take much to sell a sewing machine to someone who came into the shop looking to buy a sewing machine. You would be wrong. I was a miserable failure as a salesman, so my employer signed me up for Toastmasters. Within a few months, my communications skills improved drastically and I finally sold not one, but THREE sewing machines to one customer (it was for a high school home ec class). I also gained enough confidence to begin teaching a few classes a week and all my students gave me very complimentary feedback.
I don’t work at the quilt shop anymore, but I maintain my membership in Toastmasters. In my present job, the skills I’ve picked up at T/M have helped me in doing collections and in customer communications.
In my club, we all take turns filling the various jobs at each meeting. The meeting is held in a party room at a local restaurant, so we usually eat while we meet.
A typical meeting goes like this: The Toastmaster of the Day opens the meeting, sometimes with an Invocation. The Toastmaster is responsible for introducing each participant, leading the applause, and keeping the meeting moving.
Next up is the Reader; this person reads a story, poem, article, (the Chicken Soup for the Soul books are a popular source for this) or other reading for 3-5 minutes.
Next is the Jokemaster – this person tells jokes (duh) for about 3-5 minutes.
Next is Table Topics. The TableTopics Master has three questions prepared and calls on three people to speak extemporaneously on the topic for 2-4 minutes. (This was the hardest one for me – my first time, I only talked for about 45 seconds!) At the end of the meeting, everyone votes for the Table Topics speaker of the day. I’ve gotten better and have even gotten this prize a few times.
After Table Topics is Speaker #1 and then Speaker #2.
Then the Evaluator takes the podium and gives kudos for the things each participant did right and makes suggestions for improvements for next time.
Then we vote on the Speaker of the Day and review the next week’s assignments.
The first book you work your way through includes ten speech assignments that increase in level of difficulty as you go. I worked my way through that one in 10 months. The next books you choose depend on your interests and your goals. I chose to do Interpretive Readings and Storytelling. (It’s the Drama Queen in me).
At any rate, ALL Toastmaster clubs heartily welcome visitors and you won’t be called on to participate in any way shape or form unless you want to be until you’ve actually paid your dues ($30 twice a year) and become a member.
You can find a club in your neighborhood by visiting www.toastmasters.org