Interested in improving your speaking ability but aren’t sure where you can go to learn and refine your skills? Well today I’m pleased to welcome guest blogger and life coach Linda Bradley. She will share her experiences about Toastmasters.
Toastmasters? I’ve heard of them but isn’t that about public speaking? Gee, who wants to do that? I’d rather go jump in a freezing cold lake than get up and have to talk in front of people every week!
So, I guess I’m different than other people, because I am a Toastmaster. But not different than you because if you are reading this chances are you are a Toastmaster, or your contemplating being one. I originally joined my club to make new friends as I was new to the area. I didn’t mind public speaking so I thought it would be a win/win. I got more than I bargained for. Not only did I make several friends but I grew more than I ever could have dreamed that I would, in so many different areas of my life.
One of the most amazing lessons I learned, and why I continue to be a Toastmaster, isn’t about the speaking part, it goes deeper than that. It’s about the communication part. I learned a hard lesson two years ago when my marriage of 24 years broke up. I know now that I wasn’t listening to what my then husband was really telling me. Time and almost two years at Toastmasters has helped me to not only understand the value of listening, but to be a better listener.
In every aspect of my life my learned Toastmasters skills continue to come into play. As a life coach my listening and articulating skills are key to doing my job well. When I mingle at a party people are interested because I speak clearly and choose my words well, no uming and ahing. I respect their time and make sure that they have an opportunity to speak also, thanks timer!.
But one of my biggest lessons was actually before I became a Toastmaster. I had immigrated to Panama, a Spanish speaking country, and I had to learn the language. For the first time in my life people had trouble understanding me, I couldn’t get my point across and I was the minority. What an eye opener. My two and a half years there taught me patience, compassion and understanding for those who do not have English as their first language. And so after demonstrating my speaking and mentoring skills in my club, a newer member, with a German accent, asked me to be his mentor. I was honored and knew I had been given a great responsibility. Joe and I worked on his first speech. We spoke about powerful pauses, watching how he pronounced his “th” and how he needed to keep his stories in sequence rather than skipping all over the place with them. He soaked up every thing I had to say and wanted more. I in turn was the proud mentor each time he got up to speak, the reward just as great for me as for him.
So what is the purpose to my stories, what’s the learning for others? Well I believe there are many lessons to share here.
1. We all need to improve our communication, be a Toastmaster for that reason also. The world needs you.
2. Those with English as a second language should be recognized for their courage in moving to Canada and for their courage to want to improve their speaking skills by joining Toastmasters. Recognize this courage and be a part of their growth.
3. Being a mentor is as valuable to you as working on your speeches, maybe even more so. The connection with another person is life changing and so fulfilling.
My friends know that I drank the Toastmasters Kool Aid, as they say. And that I will be a member for life. We choose our path in life, we choose how we grow and develop. What choice will you make next in your life?
Linda Bradley has been a Toastmasters member for the past two years in British Columbia, recently completing her CL manual.She was also her clubs VP Education for 2011/2012. As a Life Coach she had a strong understanding of both listening and communication skills and strives to help others improve theirs.
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