I liked to define myself as somewhere between an extrovert and an introvert. I would open up to people I was comfortable with, however, to go and mingle with a diverse group always gave me chills. Joining Laxmi Bank Toastmasters Club turned out to be a much-needed opening for me. My sole goal was to stop my heart from acting as if it was running a marathon every time I was asked to speak on stage!
Giving prepared speeches was relatively easy as I was used to making presentations during my MBA at the School of Management, Tribhuvan University. Yet the true test for me was when I took up the role of Toastmaster of the Morning for the first time. My weakness, I realized, was in connecting with the audience. While speaking, my body would freeze into a statue and I would end up giving a monotonous speech. I would even forget to smile!
The beauty of Toastmasters, I realized, is: you can try to better yourself without the fear of being judged and therefore, I decided to get more engaged at my club. I never missed any meeting and I would take up some role most of the time. At times when I did not take up roles, I would be convincing others to take up them. In doing so, there were two benefits: it was becoming easier to approach people, and also easier to express my point of view.
Recently at a training abroad, I had the opportunity to meet people from various countries spanning five different continents and belonging to every age group. Being a Toastmaster came to my advantage at this point. Through the experience of taking up a variety of roles as well as clearing my pathways levels in my year-long Toastmasters’ journey, I had become more confident in communicating. Approaching others and expressing myself had become easier. Assuming the role of Grammarian taught me to articulate my sentences accurately while assuming the role of timekeeper and ah-counter helped keep my conversations concise and precise. Through the table topics sessions, I learned how to add interesting spices into conversations. I realized I had developed skills to converse seamlessly. As I got rid of my monotone voice and a statue-like posture, people seemed to pay more attention to what I said. That was rewarding and I also made a lot of friends!
After I returned, I took up the role of Contest Chair at the recent Humorous Speech and Evaluation contest at my club. The audience now was like a group of friends; I was comfortable, poised and yes, I did not forget to smile! Every experience in Toastmasters has something to offer. While giving speeches helps you in improving your communication skills, every other activity helps you in building your interpersonal skills along with the confidence to get out of your comfort zone. You never know which opportunity you take might help you on which stage or which event in your life. If you only do what you regularly do, you will only end up with what you always get. So if you ask, ‘Toastmasters meeting?’ The answer is, ‘Yes Please.’
Aastha Shrestha, Associate VPPR, Laxmi Bank Toastmasters Club
Published in Inkspire Issue 2. Click here for the full newsletter.