Like many others it was for career progression. I was being asked to give talks and presentations more and more often in my role as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the NHS.
Not only that, but as my career progressed I was expected to go on various committees and interview panels etc. I found this very challenging and felt I lacked the confidence and know-how to be effective in these situations. I did take some teaching courses, including City & Guilds 730, but somehow although I learnt teaching techniques, I did not feel I had progressed very much.
Then I found Toastmasters! in the local newspaper I read that a Public Speaking group was about to launch. I went along to the first demonstration meeting of Spa Speakers at Helen Ley Care Home, and here I am, 10 years later.
I made my Icebreaker speech in April 2004, absolutely quaking in my shoes!! But the excellent evaluation and feedback from club members showed me that I could do it, and that I had found the right place to develop the skills I needed, at last.
Making the most of Spa Speakers
Since then, I have heard so many inspiring, amusing touching and thought provoking speeches. I have taken part in Speech Contests, visited other Toastmaster Clubs and I have attended a Toastmaster Conference, a brilliant experience!
I have taken on the committee roles of Secretary (twice), Vice President of Membership, and I was President in 2010/11. I have met, and made friends with some wonderful and charismatic people in our club, including past members, many of whom have gone on to greater career progression as a result of their Toastmaster experience.
I have taken my time to work through the manuals. One of the aspects of Toastmaster’s that I like is that you can go at your own pace. There were times when other things were going on in my life, but I knew that I could go back when the time was right. I am now 3 speech projects away from achieving Advanced Communicator Silver.
What have I gained?
Well, my communication skills have improved dramatically; I have conquered the fear of public speaking, which is a huge feat for me! I will always be nervous before a speech, but I think that’s OK, because now I can control it. I have also improved my impromptu speaking skills, which in turn, has improved my confidence levels. Really importantly I have honed my listening skills, something you don’t learn outside of Toast Masters.
Most of all, I have had fun! I can honestly say (hope you like the cliché) that I have enjoyed every meeting that I have attended. There have been times when I have dragged myself out to attend a meeting when I have been tired, grumpy and reluctant, and by the end of the meeting felt uplifted, inspired and energised. Maybe that’s why I have been a member for so long.
I have learned so much and I am still learning, and while I am still learning and enjoying the process, I will carry on.
Finally, here’s a fact for you: a survey shows that the number one fear of people is public speaking. Number two is death. That means that at a funeral the average person would rather be in the coffin than doing the eulogy!
- How do I deliver a good speech evaluation? - 19th June 2019
- Founder member Trish shares why she joined Toastmasters - 4th April 2014