On July 1, I will become governor of Area 52 of Toastmasters District 63. Toastmasters International is an excellent organization that has guided many to greater confidence as speakers and leaders. Indeed, it has helped me greatly in overcoming my own nervousness and in finding a way to lead an organization to fulfill its mission.
I joined Toastmasters nearly four years ago, shortly after being laid off from my first full-time paid job, which I had held for five years. The economy was beginning to collapse, and I was anxious about my search for new employment. I was a certified Christian communicator and a clergy member of the United Methodist Church, but I was not confident in my own ability to communicate orally either in a job interview or a future place of employment.
For years my parents, both former Toastmasters, encouraged me to seek out a local Toastmasters club. However, it was the lack of employment and the advice of a career counselor that finally gave the kick that I desperately needed. Fortunately there was a Toastmasters club meeting just around the block from my home.
Upon joining Nashville Toastmasters, I quickly learned to listen carefully to what people where saying and doing when they are speaking or leading a meeting. The evaluation aspect of Toastmasters is one of the most powerful aspects of the program. Evaluation in Toastmasters is very supportive and encouraging while also addressing the areas that need work. We do pick a best speaker of each meeting, but it is more a time for encouragement than it is a time of putting one on a pedestal. Everyone who is a member of Toastmasters knows that we all came with something to learn. Therefore, we know that we were once that new person who struggles to get out a sentence without saying “um” ten times.
I listen now. I pause before speaking. I am much more able to facilitate a meeting without it turning into an argument. I am grateful for Toastmasters and am looking forward to this new year as Area Governor.