Friday, March 23, 2012

Why you need Toastmasters

I believe that people should be Toastmasters for the same reason that I believe people should possess firearms. But more on that later...

In my opinion, people fall into three basic groups:

  1. People like myself who are somewhere on the introvert spectrum, 
  2. People who are naturally extroverted and 
  3. People who have benefited from communication and leadership training.
Let's start with the introverts. There's nothing wrong with being comfortable "in your own skin" as my grandma used to say. However introverts have a tendency to limit their effectiveness in life, whether as lone wolves in business or as wallflowers in personal life.

There's an old anonymous joke: "What does an introvert do when left alone? They stay alone."

Introverts benefit from Toastmasters in a number of way. The supportive and friendly environment helps to bring us out of our shells. The Vice President Membership and Education have roles to play here. As leaders, the regular systemic exposure to a group helps to break down our tendency to work as an island. The Competent Leadership manual in particular guides us through working as a team. We cannot complete a single project without having to work with someone else.

Speaking from my own experience, it was less than a decade ago that I was heavily medicated to cope with social phobia. Within a year of Toastmasters training I was liasoning with the media as a Vice President of Public Relations and I was speaking in front of large groups. For introverts, Toastmasters can be a life changer.

Extroverts, on the other hand, don't need any encouragement to get up in front of a crowd. However, they immediately benefit from the polishing that comes with constant feedback and evaluation of every function of a meeting. With every speech in the Competent Communicator manual they learn constructive iterative steps to be a more effective communicator. The Competent Leadership manual helps them as well particularly the projects involving delegation and working within teams. Extroverts will benefit from learning to articulate their message clearly and effectively.

Now what about people who have communication or leadership training? These people will immediately tell you that the only way to get better is to practice. In particular, practising with groups of your motivated peers and working within a progressive self-directed (but structured!) program are key components to improving. Generally these people immediately look at the price tag of Toastmasters and immediately sign up. You will find no other educational program that's even close to Toastmasters.

All three groups: introverts, extroverts and people with prior training; are all well served by Toastmasters.

Back to my opening statement: "I believe that people should be Toastmasters for the same reason that I believe people should possess firearms." Let me explain my rationale to you:

Firearms seem like a terrifying thing when you don't have the training to deal with them. If you're never exposed to firearms then it's easy to be afraid of them. However, if you are ever in a situation where you need to use firearms then you are far better equipped if you are trained to handle them appropriately.

You might tell me today that you don't need to be an effective speaker. You might tell me that your evaluation skills are "good enough". You might even tell me that you're as effective a leader that you can be or as good as you need to be for now. But you don't know what tomorrow will bring...

Consider how you handle:

  • A store that refuses to refund your money on a warranty claim
  • A neighbourhood petition to save your local park
  • Advocacy on behalf of your grandfather, mother, daughter in the event that they need special care
  • An unexpected promotion to a supervisory position at work
If you faced these situations do you believe that you're presently as capable as you could be? Do you think that there is no room for improvement? Why take the chance when you can do something today to improve yourself.

Toastmasters is an investment in your future that gives returns in the present. I recommend it without reservation. It has literally changed my life.

1 comment:

Prince George Disc Sports said...

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