Click play to hear three simple tips to ease your concerns.
Congratulations! You are now a Toastmaster. Welcome to the family. You have embarked on a journey—a journey to improve your speaking and leadership skills. Your club and the Pathways learning experience will give you a great start.
One of the first actions you should take is to select your path in Pathways. This is the primary tool that Toastmasters use to guide us as we develop into stronger communicators and leaders. You have a wide selection of paths. Although there are many common elements, each one has its own unique set of projects that pertain to that topic area. Select the path that best fits your objectives and get started. Your club can help you here.
In this article, I want to give you a few tips I have learned that can help you get the most out of the program.
Tip #1: Finishing a path is not a race.
If you are like me, it is easy to want to finish a path as quickly as possible. The problem is you don’t become a competent speaker or leader by completing a path. You become competent by mastering the skills taught in the path.
Each path consists of five levels:
- Level 1 focuses on the primary, foundational skills that you need as a speaker.
- Level 2 is targeted to help you discover your communication and leadership styles.
- Level 3 is chock-full of electives that help you develop your skills further.
- Level 4 also continues skill development by focusing on real-world situations.
- Level 5 pulls it all together through larger projects.
While you do not have to do the projects in order, I strongly recommend that you do so. Mastering the skills in Level 1 will make the balance of the program a lot easier.
Your first three speeches get you comfortable onstage and teach you how to write and deliver a speech with effectiveness.
Evaluations are a core part of the Toastmasters program. Your final Level 1 project gives you experience in receiving, incorporating,
and giving feedback.
Take the time to master these important skills.
When you take on one of the projects, don’t start with writing the speech. Start with learning the information in Pathways. Then work to incorporate the lessons you learn into your speech. And don’t be afraid to push the envelope. You will be amazed at how much you will learn that way.
Tip #2: Map out your speech topics early.
I have seen many Toastmasters become paralyzed because they don’t know what to speak about next. I recommend that you sit down today and start a list of potential speech topics. Carry that list around with you and add new topics as they come to mind. It is always easier to come up with topics when you aren’t under the pressure of a deadline.
Select the path that best fits your objectives and get started.
When you have a good topics list, review it and map out which topics might be most appropriate for the various projects. For instance, a speech that allows you to be very expressive with your voice and body would be great for the “Introduction to Vocal Variety and Body Language” project in Level 1.
Tip #3: Use your mentors.
Your club has, hopefully, assigned you a mentor. This person will assist you as you write your first speeches and guide you in the various meeting roles.
You may be thinking, Of course I would use my mentor. The truth is many do not. In fact, more times than not, my mentees haven’t even returned my phone calls. Big mistake! Don’t be like them. Embrace your mentor. He or she is a resource who can greatly enhance your Toastmasters experience.
You will note, however, that I wrote “mentors.” You should have an officially assigned mentor, but you are not limited to talking to just that one person. You will quickly figure out that there are some members in your club who stand out as strong speakers. Ask them for their input. Most will be glad to give you some tips.
These are just a few points to keep in mind as you begin your Toastmasters journey. It is easy to get caught up in the rush to get projects done. Instead, get caught up in mastering the art of the speech. What a difference it will make.
Bill Brown, DTM is a speech delivery coach in Gillette, Wyoming. He is a member of Energy Capital Toastmasters in Gillette. Learn more at www.billbrownspeechcoach.com.
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