There is a practical and inexpensive way to work upon our Communication, Public Speaking and Leadership qualities – Toastmasters. It is a non-profit organization that i joined based on recommendation from my wife and i absolutely love it.
The concept of Toastmasters is simple – they have clubs all over the world, where one can work on refining oneself, primarily in the areas of Speaking, Listening and Thinking. In any club meeting, there are multiple roles involving Toastmaster (host for the meeting), Invocator, Joke Master, Word Master, Speakers and their Evaluators, a section to learn impromptu speaking called Table Topics, Grammarian and General Evaluator for the meeting. Each of the roles are taken up by members on rotation basis. For Speaking, there are defined projects on Communication and Leadership, in the manuals one gets on becoming a member. There are both Basic and Advanced levels for each. We learn from each others’ experiences in the club…the feedback is supportive and constructive.
One is also Awarded as we progress through the projects. I am already a ‘Competent Communicator’ and ‘Competent Leader’ (see certificates below) and on my way to achieving ‘Advanced Communicator Bronze’ later this month.
Toastmasters education program allows us to do much beyond the club activities. We belong to areas (combination of clubs), divisions, districts and International organization. There are contests that are held at each of the levels; if you win, you progress over to the next level. The fees for becoming a part of all such activities (membership fees for a club) is not much and goes to the Toastmasters International – $36 for 6 months and a one time $20 joining fee. Some clubs charge a nominal club fees also.
I joined Bryant Park Toastmasters club in New York on Oct 2013 and because of my job change moved over to a Bank in Warren, New Jersey in Feb 2014. The club there was founded in May 2005 and had a great run for many years. But it was now practically dormant because of recession and accompanying layoffs. I desperately wanted to see what’s going on because it is so easy to attend a club at the workplace. I contacted Toastmasters Contact Center and got contacts of a couple of club members. After contacting them, i realized they also wanted to have it up and running but were lacking members.
So, with a bit of fresh energy, we started with the meetings – just the Founder of the club, President, and myself. We also had a couple of other members who were non-regulars. The Bank had a huge facility in Warren, with multiple buildings in close proximity to each other. It was just about making employees and consultants aware of our Club. Some had heard about Toastmasters in general, but not the club. Soon, with had marketing fliers in all the buildings and got a few members.
Then, we conducted an Open House in Apr 2014 and made people aware of Toastmasters and our presence and what are the benefits of joining a club. Soon, we got additional members and the count went beyond 10. But then, not many turn up in every meeting. As a result, not all the roles were filled up in meetings or one had to pick up on multiple roles. I learned that one has to be motivated enough from within to really come by in meetings. So we had to get additional members.
We grew a bit more through word of mouth, and corporate communications. In Sep 2014, we again went for an Open House and that’s when we really banged it. We shooted up to 28 members just in a few weeks from then. And rest is history…we are going pretty strong now. There have been minor hiccups on the way, but that is life anyway!
We are on our way to becoming a Distinguished club for the year ending June 2015. The club achievements are based on the credits members achieve as they work on their projects during any year. There are 3 levels of being distinguished, we hope to finish at the 2nd level…a fantastic achievement for us!
Now a good news from last week – i have been nominated for the Area Director position, which i have gladly accepted. The journey looks even more exciting.
P.S. I represent the VP – Membership and Public Relations for my club and have vested interest in getting additional members🙂