My first Toastmasters experience was unreal - think hedonism, Patrick Dempsey, and bacon-hating. But first, let's go back to the beginning. Yesterday, I started the eight-week professional development kick challenge, and I told you readers that my first step was to go to a Toastmasters meeting. I admit I was nervous when I walked in, because I wasn't sure what to expect. You hear about it all the time - Toastmasters, Toastmasters - but you can't fathom what that means until you've experienced it.
I think what surprised me the most about the club, a nonprofit aimed at helping professionals develop public speaking and leadership skills, was how structured it was. There were officers, timers, and schedules to be followed. Everyone had to stand up when they spoke, and the people who were assigned speeches stood behind a lectern to speak. There was someone assigned to time each speech, someone to watch for verbal distractions such as "ah" and "um" and someone to scribble down a detailed evaluation of the presentation. It all seemed pretty intense, so when it was my turn to say something, I was really nervous.
Very aware that 25 pairs of eyes were on me, I gave a small wave and joked about wishing I had prepared a speech or brought props. That wasn't bad at all! After my introduction, we went to the impromptu part of the meeting, in which members were fired questions related to the theme. The topic of the week was hedonism and I'm sure you can imagine what kind of entertaining answers I heard. I found this woman's passionate response of being perplexed by the appeal of bacon hilarious. I was impressed by how well the participants were able to think on the spot. Despite being unprepared, members gave articulate answers that were well thought out and unrushed. This skill is perfect for interview situations, client meetings, or last minute work presentations.
Oh, and I know you've been waiting to hear about this, but I swear, one guy at the meeting could have been Patrick Dempsey's twin. During the pseudo Dempsey's speech, I secretly Googled pictures of the real Dr. McDreamy and compared them on the sly. Uncanny resemblance. Who knew you could have a faux celeb sighting at your local Toastmasters?
The whole meeting was really fun and even though all I wanted to do after work was to curl up on my couch, I was glad I went. Listening to the speeches energized me and kept me alert because I had to carefully take in what everyone said so I could give constructive feedback. One of the bonuses of this experience was that I didn't have to pay a cent for attending as a guest.
Stay tuned for more tips I learned from Toastmasters and join me on my journey of professional development! To keep it fun and mix things up for you readers, I'm going to attempt to do a different activity every week.