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I’ve written numerous times about how joining a Toastmasters club can help your career based on what you learn from going through the program. However, not everyone is interested in joining a speaking club and not everyone’s goals involve communication skills. The good news is that there are hundreds of clubs out there for every interest. You can find clubs for hobbies on topics such as sewing, reading (book clubs), chess, cribbage, car enthusiast and even video games. There are clubs that focus on business or political issues as well as public service. And there are clubs that are community focused that can focus on anything from improving a neighborhood to planning statewide events. My point is that there’s a club for practically every interest and most of these clubs (unless it’s something bizarre such as a fetish club) can give you an opportunity to move ahead with your job or business.
The great thing about clubs is that your involvement is the perfect win-win situation. The club wins because volunteers help run the club and provide the benefits to the members. The volunteer wins because he or she gets experience that otherwise might not be available to him or her with their current job. This experience falls into several categories and depending on the club and the position, not all of them may be present.
Speech contests are a huge part of Toastmasters and can be interesting to watch. While I’ve never competed, I’ve had the pleasure of acting as contest master and chief judge (on separate occasions, of course) and have really enjoyed being a part of them. But the big question about speech contests is whether or not it’s worth all the time and effort.
Like anything, it really depends on your goals. I know people that make thousands of dollars for each speaking engagement they do, yet have never participated in a speaking contest. I also know of people who have won the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking that haven’t been able to leverage their win to create a successful speaking career. But on the flip side, I know people that haven’t participated in contests that have struggled to make a career out of speaking and people that have won contests and have done well for themselves. And of course, there are thousands of us in between.
I get asked this a lot by aspiring speakers, especially those in Toastmasters that are looking for a shortcut on the path to becoming a professional speaker. The short answer is no, you can become a successful paid speaker without joining the National Speakers Association (NSA). The follow up question is then “will it help me if I join?” My reply: it depends.
It’s no secret that most people associate some sort of discomfort with public speaking. In fact, many people flat out hate it. I believe part of the reason for this is that there’s a lot of advice on how to be a better speaker (and even how to get rich from public speaking) that is either only semi-accurate or in some cases, completely inaccurate. So when people follow it and it doesn’t work they get frustrated and think that there’s something wrong with them.
While I recommend Toastmasters to my classes and clients, it’s not always the perfect solution for becoming a good speaker. It’s hard for me to not seem wishy washy on the subject because my four plus years in Toastmasters were mainly positive. Yes, there were those not so good moments, but in general I enjoyed being part of an amazing club and making some excellent friends.
Toastmasters is a great organization for people who want to become better speakers. It provides a safe, low-pressure environment where you can achieve your speaking goals at your own pace. With thousands of Toastmasters clubs throughout the world, chances are there is at least one club in your area.
Regardless of your reason for wanting to join a Toastmasters club, there are three things that you want to look for in selecting the club that’s right for you: convenience, membership and experience.
I’m a big fan of false deadlines – milestones that force you to complete part or all of a task before its scheduled completion date. When I have a big project, the first thing I do is set a date to complete it. I then go through the process I teach in my goal setting workshop to create tasks and subtasks. But whenever possible, I’ll give myself a false deadline so that I ensure I stay on target. It can be as simple as sending a draft of a piece of writing to a friend to critique or as complex as testing out a new part of a talk on a safe audience.
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