Wednesday, May 20, 2015


We haven't talked much on this blog about what's involved in being a Toastmaster, but last night's meeting gives us a chance to explain a little bit about how a new member gets recognized and honored for their growth and their achievement.

Two of our long-time members, Sheetal and Don, completed their Competent Communicator program last night, and were awarded certificates for their achievement.  In a little while, they'll be registered with Toastmasters International as Competent Communicators, and if they want a letter will go out from world headquarters to their employer and to local media outlets.

With them in this photograph are Phil our club president, Bill our vice-president of education (VPE), and Crystal our immediate past president (IPP).  Sheetal herself is one of our former vice-presidents of membership; Don is our current Sargent-at-Arms and nominee for vice-president of membership.  

Titles, awards, letters to your boss! So confusing!! What does all of this mean?

Well, when you join a Toastmasters club, you can request a mentor.  A mentor's job is to guide you through the first few speeches you give — because at its start, Toastmasters was an organization that taught public speaking skills.  Your first few speeches are about training you to talk about yourself, and learning to talk from an outline, and then learning how to walk away from your notes.  At the end of ten speeches, you'll have started to use greater vocal variety, to project confidence, to let your body language communicate with your audience as much as your words, and to persuade your hearers that you know what you're talking about.

When you've done those things, your fellow club members will recognize you by calling you a Competent Communicator.  It's the first award in the Toastmasters program, and it's the start of a beautiful training program that you can take at your own pace.  All you have to do is give ten speeches, and get feedback from your fellow members, and then your fellow Toastmasters, as well as the international organization to which you belong, will recognize your achievement.

But you may have realized that titles like Sargent-at-Arms and Immediate Past President speak to another kind of role that you're going to hold in Toastmasters.  That's the role of the officer or official in our club, and in the larger organization.  

A club doesn't exist without a team of dedicated people helping to make it happen week after week, and month after month.  An executive committee of seven members helps run every club in the country, and the world.  After you've been a member for several months, chances are pretty good that your club will begin looking at you and assessing your leadership potential.  They'll want to promote you to a leadership position pretty soon after you join and show your interest.

Because Toastmasters is a school for leadership training, in addition to being a place to learn to be a good public speaker.  As Sargent-at-Arms, you'll learn how to establish the right conditions for a meeting to be successful, week after week; as Toastmaster, you'll practice how to lead the meeting — and how to thank the team that made your meeting possible.  As Vice-President of Public Relations, you'll learn how to help your club publicize itself — and you'll find the team of club members who know how to make that happen and can advise you on reaching potential new members. You'll learn to navigate social media, and how to measure whether you're successful or not.

Ultimately, you're joining Toastmasters to advance in your regular life, though.  It's telling that Sheetal is a powerful leader in her own corporation, and recently came into her own as a much-sought-after master of ceremonies at family weddings in India.  Don joined Toastmasters to help his daughter; but now he's growing into leadership roles in other organizations, like the U.S. Marine Corps League. 

So come to Toastmasters to learn how to speak — and stay, to learn how to lead.

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