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July 2024
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Are You Too Young for Toastmasters?

No, because it’s all about the learning.

By Sayantan Das, DTM

Young man in dark jacket holding microphone
Sayantan Das

A question I hear a lot is “How have you done so much in Toastmasters at such a young age?”

I am 23 and have already spent five years in Toastmasters. I have served in all the Club Executive Committee roles, became a Distinguished Toastmaster at 21, served my District as an Area Director, Assistant Program Quality Director, and Distinguished Club Program Chair, and am currently serving as a Division Director.

I also represented my Division at the District level of the International Speech Contest in 2019, when I was just about to turn 19.

As much as it might sound like I have tried to rack up every achievement I could, I don’t look at it that way. To me, it’s all been about the learning. Everything I have done in Toastmasters has helped me grow as a communicator and leader, especially since I joined as a student.

Most people face their steepest learning curve in their first job. Being a student is mostly a solo affair, and at most schools, students become knowledgeable in their field through individual learning. Thus, when these students are suddenly thrust into the corporate world, they face a completely new environment, one that is based on the foundations of team synergy and collective goal setting.

It is this gap that Toastmasters fills, helping to prepare students for their transition into the workplace, even as entry-level employees. In Toastmasters, you learn from others, help each other reach one’s goals, and become better communicators and leaders.

I was a student in 12th grade when I first joined a Toastmasters club at 18. The following year (in early 2019), I became Vice President Education for my club, In-Steel Toastmasters in Jamshedpur, India. I had grand plans for the club and its members. As I interacted with them to understand their journey and goals, I realized everyone had a very different reason for joining Toastmasters.

While all the reasons could be grouped under the umbrella of “becoming a better communicator and leader,” they were different at their core. Our club ticked all the boxes for club success. However, we were lagging when it came to members’ satisfaction—they felt that their personal goals were not being properly catered to.

Everything I have done in Toastmasters has helped me grow as a communicator and leader, especially since I joined as a student.

This was when I saw the Club Executive Committee come together, along with some of the more senior Toastmasters, to support each member. I opened myself to being mentored by past Vice Presidents Education and slowly learned the importance and process of broader goal setting. The keys were breaking goals into smaller and achievable targets assigned to specific people, monitoring regularly, and revising the goals.

As my roles changed within the club and later at the District level, the people I interacted with also changed. I eventually learned when to use which leadership style, and I am still learning and polishing my skills each day.

I also figured out that each of those leadership styles demanded a different communication style. Delivering prepared speeches, Table Topics® responses, and speech evaluations, as well as engaging in one-on-one conversations, helped me learn the art of customizing your communication style based on the needs of the hour.

All these experiences came together to provide me with an edge when I worked on team presentations while still a student at St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata, India, and during job interviews. I was able to frame a strong approach to any problem statement. I was also able to communicate the approach with a proper structure, again because of the communication training that I had in Toastmasters.

Since leaving college, I have been working in the finance industry as an analyst. The skills I learned in Toastmasters have helped me immensely in communicating with colleagues and stakeholders, demonstrating leadership, and taking ownership of my work—exactly how we do it in Toastmasters Club Executive Committees.

So, if you are a student or a young professional, don’t miss out on the opportunity to leverage the benefits Toastmasters has to offer. While you may eventually learn some of these skills at your workplace, if you join Toastmasters, you will learn them earlier, and at a much more encouraging pace.


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