It took me eleven months, twelve days, and two hours to finally settle on a Toastmasters club. For those who don’t know what Toastmasters is, it’s a place for folks to come and practice public speaking and leadership skills with others.
I get it, it sucks. The reality of getting out of your comfort zone to dive into a cesspool of sharp gazes and stoned faces all in your direction is a common fear amongst even the best of us.
As the saying goes, the number one fear the population isn’t death; it’s public speaking. Jerry Seinfield once joked about how people would rather die than be the one giving the Eulogy. Though it sounds so absurd, he’s right.
Most great leaders and those who are going to make the most money are the ones who will consistently practice their skills as leaders and public speakers. Not only will you be able to develop these skills, but you’ll also feel more confident when you’re in situations that call for you to step up and speak in front of others.
However, throughout my years in Toastmasters, I’ve found people tend to leave after a year or less. There are, of course, many factors contributing to this. I’m not calling anyone out, nor am I here to shame. There’s nothing wrong with leaving something you cannot commit to, I’ve been there, many times before.
But for those looking to join a Toastmasters club, consider the following three things to look out for and what to do if you decide to commit to one.
Club location is essential, the start and end time could be convenient, but the culture of the club is everything.
I joined my club almost entirely based on their culture. It was the most important thing for me to look out for because I’ve been to clubs that outright ignored me after the meeting, some treated me as if I wasn’t there the entire meeting!
Here are some questions to ask yourself when you visit.
1. Do members seem like friends to one another?
2. Do people greet others they don’t know, like a guest?
3. How often do they laugh? Are they taking themselves seriously, but not too seriously? (unless you want a very serious environment).
4. How did you feel when you left the club? Why?
5. Did anyone give you any attention after the meeting?
If you’re not looking to be active in Toastmasters, you’re going to wonder why you’re even there in the first place.
There’s a statistic that Toastmasters tend to drop off if they don’t finish their first three speeches within the few months after starting.
Consistency could merely mean showing up, taking on a meeting role as often as you can. If not a meeting role, doing table topics or a speech. If none of the above, then perhaps taking on a club officer position (which often is quite a straightforward duty).
Having care means a few things, but it is the most crucial part of your growth and motivation to remain with your club.
Someone without any care for their club loses out on their ability to grow as a leader and public speaker. Why? Because people cannot grow without others. It’s a community effort to for your own self-improvement and development, and you need all the support and encouragement you can to succeed.
Here are three specific areas to focus on in your club:
1. Care for others individually
Most clubs meet once a week, and most friends don’t even meet once a week. Therefore, this club you’re going to a part of will also consist of your friends.
As with great friends, you want to see one another succeed. Their success should inspire you and help you succeed as well. It’s a win-win for everyone.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”― Jim Rohn
2. Care for the club culture
Remember, culture is everything.
Assuming you found a culture you came to love, you have to help maintain that club culture or else you’ll end up in a downhill spiral that eventually leads to your departure.
Upholding a culture isn’t just the officers’ duty; it’s every single member who walks through the door.
The entire point of a healthy community is to engage as an individual. Question yourself, what do you want the guest to take from this club after they leave at the end?
3. Care for yourself
Caring for yourself is last because caring for others and the entire community benefits you and your journey in Toastmasters.
When you not only learn to care for others, you take yourself seriously as you’re taking others seriously. You’re not worried so much about your nervousness, but thinking beyond the box that keeps you anxious and fearful of what others think about you.
This idea of caring for yourself by caring for others can only come through experience. Take action and find ways, even outside of Toastmasters, to practice your care for others, and you’ll come to realize how good it feels.
And of course, take yourself seriously. Create goals and push the limits of your self-contained mindset little by little in a supportive and friendly environment like Toastmasters, and you’ll experience things in your life that you’d never thought possible.
Hope this is helpful to all who are looking to join Toastmasters!