Personally, I’ve never been someone sticking to any sort of club activity. I must have found it intimidating to be a beginner to a new activity among all those experienced and dedicated members. Running clubs for example, where members are naturally focussed on their own goals and set their own standards. I found it quite hard to speak the same language with them and thus couldn’t get into it. I now run at my own phase without focusing on too much performance and competition.
For the exact same reason, when I heard about Toastmasters, I imagined theatrical people performing extravagant presentations on the stage. I could never be more beginner… Still, I turned up to a meeting as I had to present my dissertation in front of the committee at uni to complete my masters. Contrary to my expectations, members looked like they were highly enjoying themselves as if they were at a pub with their friends telling each other how their days went and making fun of themselves (typically British) on the stage. Despite this warm and relaxed atmosphere the meeting was not casual at all; it was carefully organised by the Toastmaster who ran the meeting, speakers were highly prepared and informative, and all speeches were rigorously timed by the timekeeper to keep the meeting in time.
What I especially liked was that the newer members were given motivating and constructive feedback by more experienced speakers at the end of their speeches. I later found out that the Toastmasters is not only about public speaking but also about practising skills of leaderships, communication and effective feedback that can be used in every day life. In addition to public speeches, members of Toastmasters need to complete certain projects such as giving effective feedback to another member, organising a speech contest or even being a committee member running the club in order to get awarded Competent Communicator and Competent Leader certificates.
I joined Woking Speakers Club in 2015, immediately after I moved to the UK. I couldn’t even speak proper English, let alone giving a public speech in English. In three years, I was guided and encouraged by great speakers who somehow believed in my potential to become a public speaker and even to become a leader! I must have made hundreds of mistakes during my speeches yet I have never been judged or critised for my English or my accent. But, without the constructive feedback I received from the members in the club, I could never fix those mistakes and improve further. Woking Speakers Club members have always believed in me more than I belived in myself. Thanks to their encouragements, I am now the president running and representing the club, awarding and celebrating the achievements of our members and our club, joining other clubs in the area and meeting amazing people. Toastmasters is a club where members grow personally and professionally, not individually but together.