Something I’ve started recently at the behest of my employer was to join one of the nearby Toastmaster Chapters. I didn’t know what this club was about but when checking online for a meeting location, was surprised to find that there were over 240 chapters in the Chicagoland area, and that the one that I’ve affiliated myself with has been around since 1970!
We gather the first and third Monday of every month at the Palatine Library from 7-9:00. This makes for a long start to those weeks, but my work is happy to let me bank the comp time to use as I please, which is nice. I always like to scheme excursions and such, but time and money are of course the limiting factors. Fortunately though, this helps to mitigate one of them.
The meetings are really well run, and are in a lot of ways similar to those of my fraternity business meetings, just infinitely more productive. Things actually remain cordial throughout, and each element of the meeting it appropriately addressed before segued into the next. Most attendees take part in the 30 second Round Table discussions, where we go around and everyone takes a stab at speaking on a particular question. Then are the Table Topic discussions, which are minute long, extemporaneous speeches given on a mystery topic by three or four people. I generally try to take part in these every time.
The second half of the meeting is filled with the prepared speeches, and followed up the evaluators’ assessments. I’ve so far done my ‘Ice Breaker’, and also entered into the Humorous Speech Contest. For the first, I just had to talk a bit about myself, and in the latter spoke on my failed attempt at getting into Yemen. I certainly did not win a heads up dual against chapter president, and Distinguished Toastmaster (4th degree Black Belt equivalent) Jerry, but all seemed happy with my willingness to get up there and go for it. Having coached my Japanese students through a few years of speech contests, it is good to experience it from the other way around.
I have nine more speeches to go until I’ve earned my Competent Communicator (CC) certification, and such is my goal. Also, by fulfilling some of set positions of the meetings, such as Grammarian, Timer, Evaluator, etc., I’m able to work towards my Competent Leader (CL) award. I figure that I’m there for my employer, especially since they’ve paid for it, but I want to get the most out of it too. I’m a strong believer in professional development, and taking every opportunity to become a better, more valued employee makes great sense to me. One’s ability to move up is not based solely on the amount of time put in; qualification and capability will always be an important factor. I’ve been at my company for about 6 months now, and it is already clear that confidence in speaking is an asset, especially if I hope to navigate towards an [international] sales role. At the very least though, I’ve got the ‘Enthusiasm Award’ under my belt, and you can never take that from me…