Oh, not another meeting. It’s that time of year when we in the northern hemisphere know that spring is coming – months from now. We want to sink down into a warm blanket and sip something soothing and not leave until that groundhog’s prediction no longer matters. But there’s a Toastmasters meeting. Why should we go to Toastmasters this week? we ask.
Can you spare an hour a week to change your life? With Toastmasters, you can find the voice inside you and discover the leader you can become. This is the Toastmasters 101 podcast. I’m your host, Kim Krajci
Toastmasters Meetings for everyone
If you’re interested in Toastmasters, this is the time of year that maybe you want to hibernate than struggle through the weather to meet a group of people you don’t know and you have no idea what to expect.
If you’re a new member of a club, the Toastmasters meeting is a place where you get to face your fears. And who wants to face their fears? We may need to face them and we may recognize that we have to face our fears. But who wants to go someplace and fear uncomfortable?
If you’re a long term member of Toastmasters, sometimes you just feel – tired. If there aren’t enough people there, you know it’s going to be a tough meeting with everyone picking up double roles and it feels like a slog.
But – if you don’t go, do you know what will you be missing?
Winter Toastmasters Meetings
Toastmasters meetings in the winter (sorry, Southern Hemisphere – save this podcast for about 6 months and we’ll talk then) can take on the atmosphere of the weather outside. Maybe a bit dreary and needing more light than usual. But there are several reasons why Toastmasters meetings are best this time of year.
1. Toastmasters meetings need you.
Whether you’re a visitor, a newbie, or an experienced member – each of us is needed to run a good Toastmasters meeting. Especially the guest.
There’s something about a guest that makes us behave our best, isn’t there. You don’t get sloppy when someone’s around who’s trying to decide if they want to come back. Best foot forward, all that.
Toastmasters meetings are pretty much an established routine. What order things are done in is a local club’s practice. In general, it’s prepared speeches, impromptu speaking called Table Topics, and then evaluations. So you know what to expect – it’s roughly that format, although I do know a few clubs that do Table Topics first.
But winter Toastmasters meetings have 2 primary characteristics that I think summer meetings don’t have.
First, we’ve made an effort to be here.
We choose to be here and we want this time to be productive. Over the summer, there are a lot more distractions and we’re a little looser. That’s not to say that summer meetings aren’t good. Where else would I be able to tell the story about the hot summer day when my sweaty clothes were falling off my body when I went into air-conditioned stores? But winter meetings can have a cosy ambiance as well as a “let’s get to work” feeling.
Second, winter meetings may have fewer people to fill the roles because of the weather. Now, that may happen in the summer, but that’s more likely to happen when the perfect weather is calling us away to other fun activities. No, winter meetings with fewer attendees can feel darker. But I see some real benefits to those meetings.
We have more ability to shape a meeting. Instead of bemoaning the lack of attendees, I like to find ways to make the meetings more fun. When there are only 5 of us at a meeting, I know I’m going hear stories from the members that don’t quite fit into the usual Toastmasters agenda.
Not the usual agenda
I LOVE those stories. Just a couple of weeks ago, I heard Mike C, a member who’s a licensed pilot, talk about how the windscreen of the plane he was flying blew off – at 2000 feet in the air. That was a story! But did it fit into our usual meeting schedule? No, but I’d pay money to hear that kind of story – especially the part when he said that the replacement would be $20,000 and he was able to trade an engine part to get the replacement instead!
My story about the sweaty clothing – going from hot car to cold meeting room back to hot car to cold store – was also told at a meeting with 5 attendees. These little meetings always end up with the opportunity to learn about others through stories and chatter that we rarely have the opportunity for in a normal, 20 person Toastmasters meeting.
The smaller meetings also open us up to longer impromptu speaking sessions. For my first 5 years in Toastmasters, I was a member of one of the most successful clubs in District 10. Stark Community Toastmasters never had less than 20 members so Table Topics was limited to 3 speakers. That was it.
Now, when I attend a small meeting, I know I’m going to get a chance to speak in Table Topics at least once. Maybe twice. We have a great guy for Table Topics in our group. I don’t know where he gets his ideas but I know I’m going to be inspired and laugh myself silly at other speakers because Mike R. comes up with the best prompts ever.
Really, winter meetings have fun – but you’ll only find out when you show up.
2. You need Toastmasters meetings.
What I’m about to say is going to annoy a lot of people – for a multitude of different reasons. Feel free to add comments to the Toastmasters 101 podcast Facebook page.
From about mid-May to June 30th every year, many clubs put a push out to get members to finish education awards. The Distinguished Club Program (the DCP) is the metric we use to determine if a club is serving the members well . That deadline is June 30th. So maybe there’s a bit more pressure to get that last education award finished – or to hold off on recording that education award until next year – after July 1 – to make next year’s DCP goals. It’s very political.
That pressure from the DCP may get pushed onto members to rush through projects.
We don’t often feel that kind of pressure in the winter. We can take our time and work through the project more carefully.
Where else are you going to give your speeches for your projects? Club meetings, of course. And the fact that we may have fewer speakers gives us more opportunities to give a prepared speech – and to take some leadership roles in the meeting.
Here’s a paradox. You might be learning more leadership skills in a smaller meeting, but you have fewer people to lead, so you might not be learning more leadership skills at a smaller meeting. Maybe both are true. I can live with that kind of existential puzzle. Either way – a small meeting does give you more challenges with doubled or even tripled roles, which does teach some important management skills. But leading a larger meeting helps you focus on macro leading skills – how to delegate and how to encourage others.
You can’t learn leadership out of a book. It’s a completely experiential skill. We might learn principles and techniques but until we actually try them, it’s not really ours. I knew what I should do as a Toastmaster of the Day – but when I stood up the first time, I felt completely unprepared and managed to forget most of the standard opening parts – like the Pledge of Allegiance, the joke of the day, the invocation…
Leadership is practiced. If you’re not there, you don’t have the chance to lead.
If you’re a new member, smaller Toastmasters meetings can be less intimidating and more supportive. At a meeting recently, we asked a new member to give an evaluation of an advanced Toastmaster. He was hesitant – it’s hard to evaluate a good speaker. So I offered to go up with him – I gave the first evaluation which was less positive than we normally give in a meeting – so that the new member could be the bearer of good news and feel like they’d made a valuable contribution in evaluation. This wasn’t to be manipulative – I never coached the new member on what to say. I told him to give his honest opinion – which is all we ever ask in an evaluation. The new member did have positive comments, but also brought up a point of growth that I never would have noticed.
This is why we love new members!
Smaller meetings give you opportunities to try new things. As a new member – lots about Toastmasters is new. For advanced members, I’ve tried a few unusual things that I wouldn’t try in a full meeting, such as a dialog with the prepared speaker during and evaluation, or helping to inspire prepared speech topics using a list of subjects and dice – just to add a bit of randomness to the topics.
I would never do these things in a big meeting with 3 prepared speeches. There just isn’t time.
To our potential guests: You’ve got goals that brought you to consider Toastmasters. Why should you come to your first Toastmasters meeting?
So you can discover how an hour a week will change your life.
If you’re a member of Toastmasters already, regardless of how long, do you know what will you be missing?
- The opportunity for you to make positive moves toward your goals will be lost.
- You’ll give up on facing your fears and not move from where you are.
- You’ll never find out how funny some of your fellow Toastmasters can be.
So sign up for a role at your next Toastmasters meeting – and show up, prepared to learn and have fun. As my friend Susan Breiding says, “Our journey is too important to take seriously.” She wasn’t talking about Toastmasters – but it applies.
Have I convinced you to go to your local Toastmasters meeting this week? I hope so.
Wrap it up Kim
Our music is from incompetech.filmmusic.io.
Toastmasters District 10 sponsors the Toastmasters 101 podcast. My personal thanks to them – because of their support, I recently completed my 100th episode. Not all of them have been published on Toastmasters 101. I had another podcast that’s been retired about getting the classic program DTM. But still – 100 episodes! Thanks to District 10 and to my listeners for 5 years of podcasting support!
If you find Toastmasters 101 interesting, insightful, or worth your time, how about recommending it to a friend or fellow Toastmaster this week?