Taking the Plunge: the value of Toastmasters membership
BY NINA, ACG, ALB
Standing in front of a group and speaking for the first time, for some of us, can be petrifying, and I was certainly one cut from that cloth.
I can distinctly recall a moment in my youth when I loved being the lead at school plays – when I was probably eight or nine years old. But once puberty hit which I reckon was the time I started to become far more self-aware (read: self-conscious) I began to shy away from taking centre stage, and have been much the same ever since in terms of natural proclivity… even though I am now far past puberty and not nearly as self-conscious a soul!
Fundamentally, what I came to realise about myself is that I am simply not high on the extroversion scale. This didn’t evince itself in early years as the lines in the plays were few, the period ‘on stage’ was limited and, frankly, there was little riding on being seen and publicly speaking at age eight, doing silly lines in ludicrous plays loved only really by parents and teachers (not even siblings!).
In business, however, there is a lot riding on public speaking of any kind and, conversely, if one doesn’t do public speaking, i.e. if one doesn’t stick his/her head above parapet but instead remains on the side lines, silent, it’s likely that one won’t be seen as a valued player, curtailing opportunities for more compelling, broader, or higher level roles.
I found myself in just those shoes, afraid to actively participate, concerned about even the notion of public speaking, let alone the action itself of doing it! The paralysis led to me watching teammates who did participate impart ideas which got senior ‘buy in’ but which I felt sure were less robust than my own. But whereas their thoughts were voiced, mine were not. And they (understandably) advanced, whereas I (understandably) did not. I was ‘reliable’. They were ‘assets’.
I realised I had to do something about the situation… take the bull by the horns, or live with the consequences. That’s when I joined Toastmasters.
Since becoming a member longer than a decade ago, I have become absolutely convinced that Toastmasters really can change the course of one’s future, as I am certain it has changed my life.
I realise that in commenting in this way that I might sound like I’m in a cult or, di minimis, that I’m overly zealous (which may call into question the credibility of my remarks), but please understand that I say this a woman who is career-minded, reasonably smart, and also (although my husband might occasionally question the adjective!) balanced; who has been a hiring manager of people as well as a consultant who focuses on executive level recruitment; and who has seen the difference it has made not only in my own development but also in others.
Old, young, or anything in between, it is never too early nor too late to join, and I certainly strongly encourage those who haven’t joined Toastmasters but are considering it to check it out, attend and join. And for those of you who have joined but are being lax about participation, I implore you to take the reins and ensure you make the most out of the opportunities at hand, to aid your development, wherever you are on the Toastmasters (and more general public speaking) journey.
In summary, what I suggest is that you heartily take the plunge. Or, as that husband of mine might say ‘JFDI.’ It’s true that his is a more pointed version than that world-leading sporting company’s strap line but, on this front, I think there’s merit in my beloved’s vernacular. Indeed: the time is nigh. Stop stalling. And go for gold.