Toastmasters: A Challenge with Benefits

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By MARYLIN LEMAICH, DTM

When my retirement got closer many years ago, I became a little panicky. What was I going to do with my time? Where would I be challenged as I had been in my work in corrections? 

I’m an introvert, so how was I going to make new friends with similar interests? I knew, even in retirement, I needed to have a purpose. 

Fortunately for me, a good friend suggested I join her Toastmasters club. I did that, and my questions about my future in retirement were answered!

Good Experience for Retirees

Toastmasters International is an organization promoting public speaking and leadership skills. One may ask what a retired person needs with those particular skills. Even in retirement, good communication and leadership skills are so important to have. 

What I have experienced in Toastmasters is something I have come to cherish. Each week I attend meetings (on Zoom due to the Pandemic) where I get to listen to interesting speeches and be involved with a diverse group of people I might not have met otherwise. 

Productive Get-Togethers

I have never been one to like going to meetings. They usually take too much time, and attendees do not always have an opportunity to be involved. Often, it just feels like a waste of time.

When I attend a Toastmasters meeting, I leave feeling positive and energized for the day. Unlike many meetings, Toastmasters meetings run smoothly and start and end on time. 

Each week the clubs have an agenda they follow with various roles assigned to members. What takes place in each meeting is timed and evaluated, so members receive feedback for their role. 

Personal Growth

Members learn to share feedback in a way that helps each of us grow. They receive suggestions for improvement as well as feedback on what they did well, highlighting their strengths.

Each club has a group of officers, and these roles provide members an opportunity to practice leadership at the club level. 

When members are ready and interested, they can participate in various enhanced levels of leadership at the Area, Division, District, Regional, and International levels, which provide opportunities for continued growth and leadership.

Montana Toastmasters

Montana has 27 Toastmasters clubs in 13 communities with 301 members. 

Missoula has three clubs. The Missoula Breakfast Forum meets on Thursday from 6:30 to 7:45 am. Shootin’ the Bull meets on Tuesdays from noon to 1 pm, and the Find Your Voice @ University of Montana meets on Mondays from noon to 1 pm. 

Guests are always welcome at Toastmasters meetings. If they are interested in joining a club, guests are encouraged to visit various clubs and find the club with which they feel most comfortable. (In my case, I found two!) 

Toastmaster members strive to be very welcoming and helpful to new members.

Pathways Online

During the past two years, Toastmasters International has transitioned from traditional educational manuals to their new, online Pathways program. This program provides at least ten different educational paths from which members can choose. The different paths all provide five core competencies, public speaking, interpersonal communication, strategic leadership, management and confidence as well as guidelines related to the specific goals of each path i.e. “Presentation Mastery,” “Motivational Strategies,” and “Dynamic Leadership,” to name a few. This new program provides many more choices than the previous one and can be more relevant to individual interests.

Public speaking is in the top 10 of most feared activities. Toastmasters provides a very safe and encouraging space for practicing this skill. In addition to improving public speaking, members have the opportunity to make an amazing and diverse new group of friends, individuals they might not have had the chance to know or meet otherwise.

Are you ready for that new challenge? If you are, go to Toastmasters International.org and find the clubs in your area. Visit them, check them out and then ask yourself, “Am I ready to join?” If so, take that leap, I promise you’ll not regret it! MSN

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