I don’t usually tell people that I am a Toastmaster.
I feared that I may dent the prestigious image of Toastmasters International.
I was afraid that when I start stating that I am a member of this leading authority in public speaking, I would pin myself into a dartboard of mocking and pity.
I was terrified that I would be toasted to critics and judgments.
“What?! That guy claims to be a Toastmaster. He does not even know how to say a toast or introduce himself. Perhaps, what he mastered is to put a bread in an oven toaster!”
I wouldn’t blame the person if ever. I blame the thought that Toastmasters is only for the elite. This was my thinking before I thought of joining.
I was made to believe that only the most eloquent speakers of the land are qualified.
And I concluded without sufficient conclusive evidence that a young and innocent ‘wanna-be’ speaker like me is not welcome to join the club.
I was wrong!
While it may be true that there are a lot of Toastmasters who are remarkable in the speaking arena, that people would pay an arm and a leg just to listen to them, or that people would sit for days and hours to listen and pick their every marvelous word of wisdom delivered with wit and eloquence, there are also Toastmasters who are just starting to learn to speak in public.
There are professional speakers and perhaps almost professional (if there’s such a thing).
There are advanced speakers and not so advanced.
There are beginners and some hesitate to begin speaking.
And yes, some are forced to join.
Luckily, I am not a member by coercion. Although, I can be a Table Topics (impromptu) speaker by coercion.
I joined Toastmasters not because I am a good communicator. I joined because I wanted to learn.
There are other numerous reasons. There are also a lot of skill-set that a member wants to work on. And I have guess – a lot wanted to improve their skills in the use of the spoken word.
So why improve your communication skills? Why improve your skills on the use of the spoken word?
Let me share three big reasons:
First, because the spoken word is inevitable.
Can you manage to wake up from your bed in the morning and lay back to your slumber in the evening without having spoken any word throughout the day?
True enough that communication isn’t optional and so is the spoken word.
You are engaged everyday in several public speaking encounters.
You may not be a seminar leader, preacher, teacher, or a keynote speaker that speaks in front of an audience but everytime you open your mouth and begin uttering words, you are speaking publicly.
You may be in front of your friend, your boss, your co-worker, your prospective employer, your prospective girl friend, your client, your prospective mother-in-law, or your pet cat or dog!
You speak every single day. You cannot choose not to.
Second, because the spoken word is irreversible.
The skill of public speaking is not only about the eloquence of your speech, but also the tactfulness of your speech.
You may be capable of literally taking your tongue back but you can never take back any word that is spoken from your mouth.
One of the things I like much in Toastmasters is the guiding principle everytime an evaluation is given to a speaker. That is, the evaluator shall evaluate to motivate.
In our club, we won’t refer to an evaluation a “constructive criticism” because of the word’s negative connotation. Rather, we are encouraged to call it “constructive feedback”.
My mentor would unceasingly remind that when you evaluate, never ever say any hurting word.
That blows my mind! Such a huge challenge, huh?
If every person would learn that skill of giving feedback by highlighting the strengths instead of weakness, by giving suggestions for improvement instead of enumerating the “wrong” things done, and by encouraging not demeaning, what a wonderful turn-around in the world’s atmosphere it would be.
Improving one’s communication skills does not only strive on what to say but also what not to say.
Third, because the spoken word intoxicates.
In intoxicate, I mean, it can change a person.
It can inspire.
It can empower.
It can influence.
It can push people to pursue their passion.
It can pump out the potential of a person.
It can change lives.
And by working on your speaking skills, you can turn a scattered manuscript into a solid and splendid message.
So if the use of the spoken word is not an option, being a speaker is not an option. Whether you like it or not, you are a speaker.
You may be speaking to a big crowd or to roomful of people, to a neighbor or to your partner, to a balut vendor or to a business tycoon, to your co-workers or Facebook friends, to your future wife or your ex-girlfriend, to your fans or to your Twitter followers, to an acquaintance or to your best friend –
You are inevitably giving out something that is irreversible and intoxicating.
And when you give this out, you want to do it in ways that appreciate, build, and connect people.
There are a lot of ways to make this possible. One of which is with Toastmasters.
Visit a club now!
Speak and live your life, young mind!
Know more about Toastmasters at www.toastmasters.org.
You can also drop me a note on Facebook or Twitter, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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