More than 12 years ago, when I was with Polaris software lab in Chennai, a colleague of mine mentioned about Toastmasters. He told that this is a club which helps develop speaking skills. I listened to him but thought to myself - I have pretty good speaking skills. Why do I need to improve it further? I shrugged the idea off and literally forgot all about it.
By 2007, I had moved to Hyderabad and was staying in Erramanzil. Around the same time, I read book, How to Make a Name for Yourself, by Scott Ginsberg. He had byte sized motivational nuggets in his book. If I remember correctly, one of them was on consistency of practice, in which he said, joining the toastmasters was one of the best decisions he had ever taken. He further added, "The best swimmers are always in the pool". The best toastmasters attended the meeting every week. It resonated with me. How simple. Not only with Toastmasters, but with any endeavor, the most consistent person would eventually become better and better in whatever he does if he applies himself to improvement.
This book also piqued my interest in Toastmasters. I wanted to know what it all was. Why according to Scott joining Toastmasters was that one of the best decisions in his life? I googled toastmaster and found some hits in the meetup.com site. To my surprise, there was a toastmasters club operating in Erramanzil itself. I thought about visiting it many times. But blame my lazy bones, my wish remained as such. I never visited that club. There were other important priorities in life. Toastmasters had to wait.
Sometime last year, I do not exactly remember who informed me, but I came to know that Elan Toastmasters Club was conducting a story telling contest. I attended that and enjoyed it immensely. This prompted me to attend some regular club meetings as a guest and to check them out. Overcoming my laziness, nervousness and shyness, I just walked in. I did not know anyone there. Though I was all alone, quickly, I realized, the meetings were fun. It also provided a forum to practice public speaking. I liked it. But when my workload at office increased, Toastmasters again went to the back-burner.
Late January 2013, I became a member in Elan.
Toastmasters are not only about communication skills. It develops leadership skills as well. But in the initial months of joining the club, I did not realize how this will help develop leadership skills. I was taking up roles like Ah-counter, Vote counter, Listener etc. I used to come just in time for the meeting. I gave a few prepared speeches and few table topics speeches also. But yet, I did not realize what all planning goes in before a meeting. I did not ever see the action behind the scene.
In May, I attended Orations 2013. It just blew me away. I never thought that there could be so much learning from just those 2 days.
Then, we had the club officers’ elections. Inspired by the speech of our club president, TM Chandra, I nominated myself in the last minute for the post of Treasurer. This was the first time ever in my life I ever contested any election. I was asked to give a small speech about why I should be elected and try to convince the members to vote for me. I spoke something about being consistent. Eventually, I got elected. Then we had the first meeting of the new Executive committee with the members of the existing EC. That was an eye opener. I got to know that it was not just planning for a single meeting that is done, but the EC members plan for all events for the entire year. Being part of EC is a big responsibility and it is a sure-fire way to develop organizational and leadership skills.
Apart from honing communication and leadership skills, toastmaster also presents an opportunity to network with many like minded people from diverse fields. I have made many friends through toastmasters and will continue to grow my friends in the large happy family and beyond.
This is how my Toastmasters journey has just started. I do not have any destination as such in toastmasters. My goal is simply to be consistent in attending the meetings, do my role and enjoy the journey.