My Membership in Toastmasters, Writing a Compelling Blog

I joined Toastmasters quite a few years ago when my employer started a Toastmasters chapter. I joined the club because I enjoyed public speaking. At the time, I had no idea that Toastmasters is a worldwide organization for communication and leadership development. Leadership development is a really big part of Toastmasters. Not only do Toastmasters give speeches, each member also learns how to take on club officer roles, lead and organize club meetings, and serve in officer roles beyond the club level.

Toastmasters is organized into regions, districts, divisions, areas, and clubs. I’ve served in officer roles at the district, division, area, and club level. I led a Toastmasters district consisting of parts of three states. Our district had over 3,000 members belonging to over 160 clubs. I built a team consisting of nearly 50 volunteer leaders. Leading the district, I learned leadership and was responsible for administration, finance, budgeting, marketing, and member achievement. College students learn these things out of books. In Toastmasters, we receive instruction, and it’s not book learning. We are leading real people, managing real money (in my case over $60,000), and achieving real business goals. By-the-way, our district was recognized as a Distinguished District because we fulfilled all of our business goals.

By completing speeches, serving in officer roles, and completing leadership projects, members achieve different levels of recognition (called education level). The highest education level in Toastmasters is Distinguished Toastmasters (DTM). Due to the officer requirement, most Toastmasters take several years to earn a DTM. It took about five years for me to achieve my first DTM. That’s pretty typical. Note, I said it took five years for me to achieve my first DTM. I now have three DTMs and am working on my fourth.

Toastmasters is different from taking a college class. In college, students take a class, get a grade and move on to the next class. Think about a college-level public speaking class. After finishing a public speaking class, most students don’t get the opportunity to repeat and reinforce the skills they learned. The difference is that skills learned in Toastmasters are on-going. I’ve been in Toastmasters for quite a few years. I continue to speak regularly and serve in leadership roles. I not only keep my skills current, but I’m continually improving. Toastmasters don’t receive grades, but we are evaluated. Every speech receives a written and oral evaluation. We get feedback suggestions and for improvement. Evaluations also tell us what we did well. A good evaluation will be motivating (“you did a great job on ….”), and offer suggestions for improvement (“I notice you could do a little better on …, next time try…”)

If you are shy, Toastmasters is a wonderful way to meet people, overcome shyness, and improve social skills. Toastmasters is not intended to be a singles organization, I wouldn’t recommend joining Toastmasters to find your next love interest. PLEASE don’t. Toastmasters is an educational organization, not a singles club. Having said that, I do know several married couples who met in Toastmasters.

Toastmasters recently revised the education program. The revision is a major update over the “traditional” program, and incorporates modern technology. The new program still consists of speaking, serving in leadership roles, and completing leadership projects. This blog is indented to complete a blogging project from Level 4 in the Leadership Development track: “Write a Compelling Blog”. I’ve been blogging for years, but only occasionally. I recently resolved to blog once a week, and have been doing so. This project expects me to blog eight times over four weeks, so for the next month, I will blog twice a week. Then at the end of the month, I will give a speech about how my blogging project went.

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