While attending a club meeting last week, I witnessed what happens when a member presents a speech without being prepared. If we are all being truthful, I am sure there have been occasions when each one of us has come to our club meeting unprepared, either to give a speech or fulfill a meeting role. If you’re like me, you felt somewhat embarrassed and less than confident, and knew that you performed well below your best. But did you ever consider the ripple effect this lack of preparation can have on the meeting?
Consider the second commitment of the Toastmaster’s Promise: “to prepare all of my projects to the best of my ability …”
What harm can it do to occasionally “wing it”? The answer is simple: It affects everyone. First, let’s look at the effect of an ill-prepared speech on a club meeting. It shows a lack of respect for members who make up the audience and a disregard for the time those members commit to listen to the presentation. Winging it also denies the evaluator the opportunity to evaluate a worthwhile presentation and effectively raise points of commendation and points for improvement. In addition, by not presenting a speech to the best of your ability, you are usurping a speaking opportunity that could have been given to a member who was prepared.
However, by not preparing, the person you harm the most is yourself. You are claiming credit for having given a speech project for which you should not be credited due to your lack of preparation, thereby devaluing the credit given. But most of all, you are in danger of making a lack of preparation a habit.
The same can be said of being unprepared to fulfill a meeting role. An unprepared Toastmaster, Table Topicsmaster, evaluator or any other member serving in a meeting role affects the quality and professional standards of a meeting and directly impacts other members’ enjoyment. Worse still, when a visitor to a club meeting sees members who are unprepared when giving a speech or fulfilling a meeting role, it often results in a bad first impression and the loss of a potential new member.
I urge you to prepare all your presentations and meeting-role assignments to the best of your ability because, as a Toastmaster, you are in the spotlight and a role model for everyone attending the meeting. It is a responsibility you undertook when you committed to the Toastmaster’s Promise. Quality clubs depend on quality members—and that’s what the promise seeks to deliver.
MIKE STORKEY, DTM