Friday, July 01, 2005

on being a Toastmaster

I live in a small town. I love living in a small town. Where else can you get a haircut from the former mayor in a barbershop where they know you are coming in because you are leaving the next day for a son’s wedding down in Florida? Where else could you chat with your doctor in the aisle at the grocery store, a doctor who actually knows your name, the same doctor, by the way who sees me, my mother, my children, and my grandsons?

It is Mayberry indeed.

Last night I reveled again in my smalltownness as I handed over the presidential gavel to Pete at our local Toastmasters awards night banquet. I have loved every minute of being president, of cheering on and being cheered on by my fellow club members as we worked together to accomplish our personal and club goals. Pete, who told us he is 83 but doesn’t look a day over 72, will be our president this coming year and will bring his 25 plus years of Toastmaster experience to the job. I look forward to his leadership and can’t think of a more capable person to have in command.

I am a newcomer on this club scene. I have been a Toastmaster for only 4 years. But it has been a great 4 years. It is not only because I have completed my personal goals of CTM, ATM-Bronze, and CL awards through Toastmasters International. It is not because I have participated in speech contests and even won the highest award I could win for humorous speaking. It isn’t even because I can go somewhere and people actually have to listen to me talk. Those are the side benefits.

My last 4 years in Toastmasters have allowed me the wonderful opportunity of getting to know, often quite personally, some of the finest citizens in my community. It has given me friendships that span all ages, from 18 to 83 and then some. It has opened my eyes to a Canton that I had never known as I listen to the stories and concerns of people who have lived and worked in this community for more than 50 years. It has given me the privilege of learning, for a mere $48.00 per year, skills in public speaking and leadership that have applications far beyond the walls of Toastmaster club meetings.

People join Toastmasters for all sorts of reasons. I initially became involved because I was traveling to Atlanta to present a workshop for a conference on mercy ministries. I knew I needed to hone my speaking skills and wanted to glean from those who had done this already. Because positive, constructive criticism is part of every meeting, I knew I could trust fellow club members to help me with this project.

What I didn’t realize was that I would have mentors and coaches, about 20 of them, who listened intently for errors and corrected me when I made them, who noticed when I improved and told me so, who asked me to do the same things for them. As I heard their evaluations, both of me and of others, I learned skills in not only speaking but in listening to what people are really saying. In turn, I have become a better listener of others, not just at my club. Any successes I have had are the results of the investments each of them have made in my life. And in the whole process, I received 20 new friends!

Do you want to become a better speaker? A better listener? A better leader? Do you want 20 new friends? Find a Toastmaster’s Club. You will wonder why you waited so long!

4 Comments:

At 6:53 AM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

What a great experience!!! I have always heard about Toastmasters but have never experienced it first hand. I think that you should see if you could this entry published somewhere- it would be great publicity for the toastmasters! :)

 
At 1:52 PM, Blogger prairie girl said...

Hi Elizabeth. I just sent it to our local newspaper editorial section on Friday. Since I DO live in Mayberry it will be published! I have thought about sending it to the Toastmaster magazine as well.

Where do you live?

 
At 8:19 AM, Blogger Gina E. said...

I can relate to your experience with Toastmasters, PG. I have been a member for 18 years, and I have met the most wonderful people in not only the local community, but as I attended Divisional and District conferences, people in the country areas and interstate. I joined initially because I was elected Area Co-ordinator of our Neighbourhood Watch group, and I didn't have a clue about conducting meetings! But six months down the track, our group was one of the most successful in the State. In the following years, I went on to be on the State Council of N.H. Watch and ran the training program for two years. I also became involved in state politics and was an active member of our local branch for about 10 years. The only thing stopping me running for pre-selection for federal politics was the death of my father. None of this would have happened if I had never been a Toastmaster. You are absolutely right - it gives you so much more than the early benefits inside your own club.
Gina, Melbourne, Australia.

 
At 9:04 AM, Blogger prairie girl said...

Gina,

So happy to meet a long-distance Toastmaster!

I bookmarked your blog after meandering throught the beautiful embroidery work. My grandma taught me how when I was a little girl. I will never forget that first, crude project...a scotty dog ironed on a tea towel! I love to sew but there is so little time. When my first three children were little, we would listen to the radio reader on Friday afternoons and even the boys would do embroidery projects. My son who is now an attorney with a wife and babies, would never stay with the planned design. I still have a dinosaur he made when he was 7, a tyrannosaurus rex with red floss blood dripping from his lips!

Thanks for dropping by.

 

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