For a long time, I felt invisible. Then I attended my first Toastmasters meeting. It was June 17, 2014, and after two failed attempts at going, the third time was the charm. I was finally checking out Puerto Rico Toastmasters Club. But I was so shy that if somebody got close to me to say hi I’d barely respond. Otherwise, I sat there completely quiet.
Only a couple of days before that first meeting, I had transitioned to a new life after working 25 years as a computer engineer. The first thing I wanted to do was join Toastmasters. From the initial line of code that I wrote on a punch card, to implementing a new 23 million customer service system for my local electrical company, I’ve seen both technical evolution and revolution. But my biggest fear, communication, could not be solved with a new optical fiber or a bigger database. I was not afraid of technology—but trying to achieve my dream of becoming a professional speaker was truly a scary challenge.
Toastmasters was a blessing beyond my expectations. Even though I planned that life change, adapting to it was harder than I thought. But Toastmasters helped me develop new goals, find a new social tribe, and work on a personal transformation that I desperately needed. Toastmasters and public speaking became my new great passions. And three years after joining, I became a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), one of my greatest achievements.
The next logical step for me was creating my own podcast. My technological background and newfound passion for communication felt like the fuel I needed to start this endeavor. I bought a digital recorder and a couple of microphones, but I couldn’t push myself to start. Even some friends who were coaching me on this project were getting tired of my plan-but-no-action attitude.
Then, in September 2017, Hurricane María devastated Puerto Rico. I had no electricity for weeks; many people went long months without power. I called María “the great leveler.” Many businesses and projects went back to zero. It was then that I decided to finally start my podcast to share inspiring stories about dealing with adversity, managing drastic changes, and finding reinvention in difficult times. My podcast ¡Nos cambiaron los muñequitos! was born. The title comes from an expression we use in Puerto Rico when somebody or something changes the rules of the game, and we have to adapt.
My biggest fear, communication, could not be solved with a new optical fiber or a bigger database.
Since I had no prior journalism or communications training, this podcast became an opportunity to practice and improve all the skills I developed in Toastmasters. Instead of conducting interviews, I focused on having deep conversations to connect with my guests.
I am able to work on my active listening during every conversation that I record. And when I edit the audio, I give myself feedback, just like I’d receive at a club meeting: reduce the number of filler words, choose the right words for an international audience, and improve my mental agility while speaking.
But the most difficult (and rewarding) task is reaching out and engaging others to have these thoughtful conversations. Even though I’m still shy and introverted, the possibility of an inspiring exchange gives me the courage to invite people from all backgrounds. I’ve interviewed a famous podcaster from Madrid, a folk singer from Norway whom I’ve admired for decades, a former FBI agent with more than 14 published books, a sports journalist turned podcaster from Paraguay, an Argentinian-born American political YouTuber with more than a million subscribers, and many fellow Toastmasters. I’ve learned to do one of the hardest things: ask someone to have a conversation with me—this unknown, aspiring podcaster. And even though I am still afraid to speak, my voice has now been heard in 94 countries. That’s the power of podcasting.
Are you thinking about creating your own podcast? Let me tell you this: It can change your life. It can help you build your personal brand or strengthen your reputation as an expert in your field. Podcasting is the perfect platform to practice your communication skills.
Editor’s Note: Cristóbal Colón earned Honorable Mention in the Pitch Us Your Podcast Idea contest in March 2022. Visit www.cristobalcolon.net/podcast to tune in.
Cristóbal Colón, DTM is a member of Elite Advanced Speakers and Puerto Rico Toastmasters Club in San Juan, Puerto Rico.