When I first joined toastmasters, it was to overcome a lifelong fear of public speaking. Back then I was satisfied with being able to speak in front of a small gathering. In many ways, that is still the ultimate goal.
In the Toastmasters club, each member can choose to fill any number of available roles. Each role is designed to help a member become more comfortable in speaking. Prepared helps each speaker to prepare for different levels and types of speeches. Table topics help each participant practice thinking on their feet. And to give an impromptu speech on a topic they just heard. Then there is the toastmaster. The emcee, master of ceremony.I have been a table topic master, and I have given two prepared speeches. But I have never been a toastmaster. So I volunteered to be one for the Dec 13 meeting.
To be the toastmaster is an ultimate source of fear for me. Sure, you have a prepared agenda. But if something were to go wrong, then you need to be able to think on your feet and handle it. You need to keep introductions short and accurate. It is the culmination of all the minor roles. So when I volunteered for the role, I was apprehensive. “Did I make a mistake?”. My initial reaction was to try to dodge it. Just call in sick!
But like what so many people know, you can’t get better at something without practice. You can overcome fear by getting used to it, like your first bike ride, or roller coaster ride.
There is no better place to overcome the fear of being the toastmaster than at a Toastmaster club.
I went to the toastmaster meeting half expecting it to be canceled again. To my relief, it was not. But it almost was.
Taking on the role of toastmaster is one of two roles I have yet to try. The other is that of an evaluator. My two earlier attempts ended with each meeting getting canceled, for various reasons. I prefer to think I am not supposed to try it out. But as they say, the third is the charm.
I got to the school 15 mins earlier only to find that the door to the meeting room locked Not a good sign. I go down to the gym entrance, locked. One more hope, at the other end, about 50′ away was another set of doors. Maybe those were open. As I approached the doors, a lady walks out. A teacher perhaps. She waves goodbye to someone inside cleaning the windows. The janitor! I rush in through the door, greet him a good evening then tell him my purpose. “I’m here for a toastmasters meeting at 7 pm, but the doors are locked.”. “Oh, toastmasters? Yes, I will unlock the doors for you.”. I thank him and proceeded to the meeting room.
I turned on the lights then selected a chair I could get up and sit down with minimal crossing in front of people. A few minutes later the other members trickled in.
Being the toastmaster is not as bad as deciding on and giving a speech. The hardest part was the transition statements. I found examples by watching other toastmasters on YouTube, but a good transition statement is one that acknowledges the earlier speaker and the subject of the speech. If you yourself am not familiar with the subject, then thinking on-the-fly ala table topics is a very helpful skill to have.
My next goal is to work on being an effective evaluator.
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