From the age of 15 to 20, I worked at my father’s restaurant. Started off busing tables, then cleaning pots and pans, and moved up to Veg cook at the end of my tenure. Throughout those 5 years, each time I was scheduled to bus on Monday night I sighed and said, “Great, those damn Toastmasters.”
I had no idea what Toastmasters did, all I knew is that the entire banquet room filed out at once, right at the end of the night. So you couldn’t get in there early and start closing, which made you stay later into the night. Pretty big deal for a 16 year old right? Fast forward 25 years later, I now understand the value of Toastmasters, and host it once a week at our coffee shop, any guess what night of the week it is?
This story resonates with me because I have come full circle, can this be coincidence? My maturity level (or lack thereof) at 16 would not allow me to see the value of such a group. If I could give young Jason advice, it would be to peek through the door to see the speeches.
Today, I look forward to our Monday night Toastmaster, not just to practice my public speaking skills but also to watch other nervous nellies around me get through a speech, sweat through a Table Topic, or avoid eye contact when asked “Who wants to give their Ice Breaker speech next week?” Everyone at Toastmasters is nervous in some way, their insecurities revealed or probably hidden with fast talking, jokes, or silence. My hands always shake right after a speech, takes me a couple minutes to simmer down. 25 people become vulnerable for 75 minutes each Monday night, and it is quite powerful. All walks of life with ages ranging from 20 to 70.
The number one fear of Americans continues to be public speaking. If you found that crystal ball and it told you that you would never give a public speech for the rest of your life, you should STILL come to a Toastmasters. Founded in 1924, this century old non-profit educational organization tweaked and improved its curriculum to its effective (and fun) structure today. Broken down into 3 segments, the meeting helps you improve in different ways and look at speaking from all angles…
- 3 Prepared Speeches each with their own evaluator 4-6 minutes
- Table Topics – the speaker answers a question previously not known and has 1-2 minutes to speak “off the cuff”
- Evaluation – The Timer, Ah Counter, Language Evaluator, and Speech Evaluators give their reports
One of my favorite evaluations is The Timer. Normally you raise a green card at 4 minutes to let the speaker know where they are time-wise. A yellow card is raised by the timer at 5 min, and the red card signifies 6 minutes and to wrap it up. At the Nantucket Toastmasters, our timer uses a green-yellow-red pepper, which you can see demonstrated in the photo with how I feel sometimes when I’m asked to public speak!
Giving a speech is quite different than evaluating a speech, not everyone can do both well. And the improv Table Topic portion pushes even the most witty of us to fumble around. Most people find this type of quick speech difficult but it is very important to practice as Small Talk is one of the keys to building relationships.
If you are looking to improve your overall confidence then I believe Toastmasters can be of great help to you. You’ll meet people outside of your normal circles and walk away with new skills and a spring in your step! Stop in to the Handlebar Cafe any Monday night at 7pm and check it out or shoot us a question/comment on our Facebook page.
Hope to see you there!