Sometimes Toastmasters are so busy learning the ins and outs of club meetings and roles or focusing on the next speech topic that it’s easy to miss some of the simple, logical approaches that can propel learning and promote growth. Here are tips from some of us longtime Toastmasters to take your experience to the next level without waiting for years yourself.
1 Take advantage of introductions.
When speaking, let the person introducing you set the stage for your speech. Don’t waste time and weaken your impact by presenting the information yourself.
At a minimum, all speakers should share a speech title and project information with the person introducing them. This is particularly important to help people learn the criteria of Pathways or understand the goals of the traditional program’s advanced manuals. When practicing a speech for outside the club, it’s even more essential to share who the real audience will be. This will provide context to your evaluator and club members.
Having participated in club and district events on three continents over 23 years, I have seen too many members start prepared speeches by giving their name and describing what they’ll be presenting. I have also seen impromptu introductions undermine the tone of a presentation.
Speakers can provide a written introduction or talking points to the person introducing them. Cat Kipling, DTM, has been a member of Excalibur Speakers, an advanced club in London, for nine years, as well as a past area director, club coach and club sponsor. She says her club gives members an introduction template to ensure speakers include credentials related to their topic and are able to formulate proper introductions.
2 Present a challenge.
Feedback is vital for all speakers to improve, yet too often people hesitate to evaluate or offer constructive feedback to experienced members. “As we are all at Toastmasters to grow, however experienced we are, it’s always so disappointing to hear someone be told ‘X is obviously an advanced speaker, and I don’t have anything to recommend for next time,’” Kipling says.
If you can’t think of anything helpful to say, consider advising speakers to try something out of their comfort zones or different from their established style. “I’ve heard natural comedians being challenged to tackle a more serious subject, flamboyant speakers to pick a topic that they will need to deliver with calm composure, and those who are technical presenters to try storytelling,” Kipling says.
3 Let new members go their own pace.
Toastmasters is a journey, not an instant transformation. People join at different stages of motivation and development. When evaluating members, especially new ones, it’s important to understand their goals and capacities and help them grow at a pace that makes sense for them.
Sometimes Toastmasters give too much feedback to new members, who may become discouraged, stop speaking or, worse, not return. Patrick Oei, DTM, a past international director and 23-year member in Singapore, believes new members are often overwhelmed at the beginning and should be nurtured. “Never judge anyone,” Oei says. “A new member may take awhile to be comfortable speaking to an audience. That person could be the next International President who needs our help in grooming him or herself.”
4 Be prepared and make every meeting a showcase.
Many members don’t realize the preparation that should go into each meeting role. The better prepared you are for a position, the more you can learn, help others, contribute to the meeting and energize the club.
One helpful resource is A Toastmaster Wears Many Hats, which is free and available in nine languages in the Toastmasters online resource library. The guide provides in-depth information on each meeting role’s duties prior to, during and after the meeting. Some clubs send targeted messages before each meeting to remind people to prepare.
“The club is the face of Toastmasters to the community where it operates,” says Beth Thomas, a six-time DTM, former district and international director, and current member of Rainbow Nation Toastmasters club in Vereeniging, South Africa. She sees a big difference when meeting officials are prepared and performing their roles to the fullest. Members learn more and stay engaged, clubs maintain a high standard of professionalism, and guests are inspired to join.
Don’t wait for your own wisdom of the ages. See what other experienced members recommend to get the most out of Toastmasters now.
Jennifer L Blanck, DTM is a member of Skyline Toastmasters in Denver, Colorado, and a regular contributor to the Toastmaster magazine.