I still vividly remember 10th March 2013, a Sunday, when I tiptoed inside the packed hall of Everest Toastmasters to attend one of the club meetings. A few days earlier, I had met a seasoned Toastmaster who had suggested me to attend the meeting. I reluctantly agreed. Since then, I’ve only looked forward.
From that day till today, I have transformed and have found a better version of myself as I embraced the process of learning with the re-calibration of mindset. My communication style improved as I found a friendly environment where I was not judged for faltering on stage. It is a privilege to be a part of the Toastmasters family, which is getting bigger and better.
As I look back at the 7 years spent at Toastmasters, there are 5 key lessons I have learned.
- Speaking confidently
At Toastmasters, I confronted the fear of public speaking and have partly defeated it in the process. Through the life-enriching process of Toastmasters, I have become a confident person personally and professionally. Learning new vocabulary, turning any good, bad, or ugly situation into a good story, lending a voice to the story, and thus crafting a better speech within allotted timeframe are some crucial parts of the process. I no longer hold back my thoughts and express them confidently.
- Listening Critically
I grew up with my grandmother who used to say – “Son, God has given you two ears and one mouth. So, you speak less and listen more.” In our lives, we do listen and pay attention, but at Toastmasters we learn to listen critically. In each meeting, you learn by listening to fabulous speeches and amazing evaluations. We may not always get “stage time”, which is perfectly fine because there are learnings also for the spectator. Listening is a art and we learn to master it during the course of our Toastmasters journey.
- Learning to lead
Few years back when I had taken the lead to open a new Toastmasters club at my organization, a question had surfaced in my mind “Am I good enough to become the Charter President of Standard Chartered Bank Toastmasters Club? With one simple pat on the back and one answer inspired me to continue – “Grab the opportunity. Embrace change. Learn to Lead”. Since then, from being the Club President to Area Director to Division Mentor, I have learnt a lot about leadership. I would like to call Toastmasters “a well-equipped laboratory” to learn and practice leadership skills. I am a firm believer that learning never stops and our leadership skills move beyond club meetings. The window of opportunity to lead goes beyond the club executive committee. We can take up roles in the Area Council, Division Council or become District officer/Area Director. At Toastmasters, the journey of leadership is infinite.
- Appreciating and accepting constructive feedback
The most significant component of any Toastmasters meeting is its on-spot evaluation. Members help each other through direct and indirect evaluation of speeches. They not only tell you how good you were but also point out areas where you can improve. Specific feedback is provided and the onus is on us to imbibe such constructive feedback, to accept it, and to use it in our next speech. Majority of the people that I have met at Toastmasters are members who have a strong desire to improve their communication and leadership skills. With the hunger to improve, we also learn to appreciate good feedback.
- Interacting with like minded people and having fun
When we surround ourselves with people we are comfortable with, it may give us a blind eye about the world that exists outside of our vision. I believe that we all need to meet people who are different from us or have taken different career/life path as it helps to a) make us realize why we didn’t take that path which they did, which in turn makes us more confident about our decisions and b) it pushes us towards taking some challenging steps we may have been pondering on for a while. In a Toastmasters club, specially community based clubs, we meet people from different walks of life. Talking to like-minded people coming from different backgrounds allows us to get different life perspectives and gives us some fun time together during club meetings/contests/conferences, etc.
I am very proud to be a part of the ever growing Toastmasters family in Nepal. It has allowed me to become a better person. For those of you who are thinking of becoming a Toastmaster but haven’t yet, please do not wait – join any nearby club which suits you. The journey on the road ahead will be beautiful!
Anish Dixit, Division Mentor, Division A
Published in Inkspire Issue 3. Click here for the full newsletter