Mikhail: “It’s great to see other people improving each meeting”
Dear Toastmasters and those who aren’t yet!
I didn’t know anything about Toastmasters before, I just guessed that there probably exist some public speaking club in the world and hopefully in Belgium, which can help me. So I Googled and found Toastmasters on the closest location – Antwerp. The reason I started this search can sound banal, but relevant. I’ve never been a good speaker and nothing in my childhood was supposed to help with it.
When I grew up, working with people and especially in big corporations, I realised that significant part of your success depends on how you communicate with people and how you convey a message. Speeches and presentations in front of people was always difficult for me.
Difficult doesn’t mean impossible, it’s just a matter of time and effort that you engage yourself for to improvement.
I attended my first Toastmasters meeting as a guest in the beginning of August. I’m usually careful for immediate sign-up without a try. So being as a guest is a very good option to try. I tried it and liked it very much. I found out it’s an environment with a very nice and friendly atmosphere, with a variation of personalities and many opportunities to learn.
My decision to sign up was immediate. I even asked if I can already do an «Ice breaker» speech next meeting, pushing myself to practice, but feeling very uncomfortable with it. I always justify for myself this uncomfortable feeling as a good learning opportunity. Learning doesn’t come from comfort.
Since I’m subscribed myself, I did one “Ice breaker” speech, 1 table topic, 1 speech evaluation and participated in a Table topic contest, which – no surprise – I did not win. I discovered something more important when I was preparing for this contest. Of course, I told my son and my wife about this contest and my son got so excited about it.
We decided to prepare the practise of table topics at home every evening. My wife was giving us topics and judged. To my surprise my 10 years old son beated me. His very strong point in a speech was a meaningful position, crafted in a very simple way. My speech tends to get complex and makes it complex to develop a story and end it.
My wife’s feedback was pretty simple and honest to my speech: boring. I tried different options to start and to do things more simple. A good start for table topic I found out is: “Imagine if …” and develop your story from opposite or a bit negative situation of the topic itself. For example, if the topic is «Clothes», then you can start – “Imagine if there are no clothes in the world. Everyone is naked…”
People start to imagine this situation, in this way you build this important connection. Of course, maybe it’s not applicable to every situation, it’s just one of the options. And by the way, I very glad what I discovered in my son. Hope he will be better than me…
I recommend Toastmasters Antwerpen to improve your communication and public speaking skills and you can make the most out of it if you take the following into account:
– A lot depends on the people around you and especially in your progress. Toastmasters will give it to you. People with different expertise and background.
– You need to enjoy the process, without it learning will be very hard. Toastmasters is a friendly and motivating environment for this.
– Rehearsal is essential – before you speak, ask someone to listen and give you a feedback.
– Simplicity and structure are critical. Always try to split any speech in 3 parts and speak like a 10 years old child
– Getting feedback and giving feedback – you will get it at Toastmaster. If you are working as a manager, giving feedback to your employees in an efficient way is critical.
– Have fun – Toastmaster will give it to you.
It’s great to see how other people improving each meeting, so it becomes a group dynamic, which is very stimulating.