This speech was given at the Dawn Patrol Toastmasters club.
Thank you, Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, and guests.
Can I see a show of hands of everyone who showed up today?
Thank you for showing up but that’s not the only reason come to this Toastmasters club. We come to grow. We come to improve our public speaking and leadership skills. That’s the main reason I started coming to Toastmasters meetings about three years ago. During today’s speech, I want to talk about why I needed to come to Toastmasters, how I struggled to get involved, and how it’s changed my life.
Once I started my career, I wasn’t giving many prepared speeches but I was doing a lot of impromptu talks. When I did have opportunities to speak, I’d have a lot of symptoms common to an inexperienced speaker: I’d be nervous, my palms would sweat, my heart would race, and my coworkers pointed out another issue, which was that my voice would change whenever I spoke at meetings. I’d develop this Sylvester Stallone–Rambo-type voice. I have a hard time trying to replicate it because I never realized I did it.
After receiving this feedback, I started reading books on Communication. One of those books was Jeffrey Gitomer’s, Little Green Book of Getting Your Way. In the book one of the things he recommended to help improve your communication skills was joining a local Toastmasters club.
Now I knew what I had to do, I had to join a Toastmasters club, but where was a going to attend. It took me about a year to build up the courage and attend my first meeting.
Why did it take me so long?
There is always an excuse. I always had something better to do: go to lunch with coworkers, go to the gym, read, or write. It’s similar to the idea that everyone knows they should eat healthier but how many actually do? Not many.
I finally built up the courage to attend my first meeting, which was at the Mellon Toastmasters club. Everyone was friendly, I was given an information packet, and there was a lot of clapping. I mean a lot of clapping. The kind of clapping that’s kind of awkward. It kind of creeped me out. I didn’t end up going back for another six months.
I knew I still needed to work on my communication skills so I decided to try it again. This time I attended the Toastmasters in the Tower club because it was slightly closer to my office. I signed up right away and did my first speech within the first month. I was really nervous for my Ice Breaker speech. I wrote a speech about the reasons I was joining Toastmasters and what I wanted to get out of it. In the middle of the speech I forgot one of my points. Inside my head I was freaking out, I had a million things racing through my head, but I kept my composure and remembered the point I wanted to make. The best part was nobody noticed I had lost my place. I thought I blew the speech but many people didn’t even realize my mistake. Most thought I was doing a dramatic pause. It was a great experience so I kept coming back. I got better each speech. I got a little less nervous. I worked on a new skill in each project: my eye contact, speech structure, body movement, and vocal variety. I completed eight speeches in my first year.
The next year, I changed jobs. I was out of Toastmasters for almost a year while I searched for a new club, which proved difficult because there were no lunch time options around my new job location. Then I found the crack of Dawn Patrol club on Friday mornings. It wasn’t easy adjusting my schedule but I worked on it. I attended one meeting, and slowly I started being able to get up and out the door early enough to attend the 7:15am meeting. I joined the club around December 2014, but I didn’t give my ninth speech until May 2015, and then I completed my 10th speech and the Competent Communication manual in June. That’s about the same time I also joined the newly formed PREP Speaks Toastmasters club through my company.
I was now a member of two clubs but I wasn’t giving many prepared speeches.
By the end of October I realized I needed to change my strategy. My passive, try to give a speech every month, mentality wasn’t working for me. I needed a more aggressive approach. That’s when I decided to start giving a speech every week. I announced this strategy during a speech titled, A Speech Every Week, that I delivered at this club. My goal was to give a speech every week until the end of the year. I ended up completing my goal by giving eight speeches which included speaking at the Distict 13 Fall Conference and a company conference.
Last year my big goal was to write a blog post every single day. This year, it’s to give a speech every week. I think this will help change my life and improve my speaking like nothing else I could do. I would like to give these speeches at a club each week but I don’t want to take up all of my club’s speaking slots because that’s unfair to the rest of the members. This delemma made me wonder where I could give all these speeches. I could find local organizations. That’s a part of this goal. I’d prefer to give these speeches in front of a crowd.
What if no crowd is available?
I don’t want my lack of a venue to turn into an excuse to not complete a speech. If I can’t give them at a club or an organization, why can’t I post them online to either my blog or YouTube? That way there is no excuse. It’s a simple solution and allows me to start doing something I’ve wanted to do anyway, which is create video content on YouTube.
The great thing about this story, my story. Is that I started from scratch? All of the experienced Toastmasters began with an Ice Breaker. Every emotion or feeling you’ve felt when you decided to come to your first meeting and give your first speech. We’ve all felt. The point of Toastmasters is about coming back every week or two and signing up for speeches and roles that help you grow.
Can I see another show of hands of the people who not only showed up today, but showed up to grow?