What I liked and disliked about Toastmasters. In the beginning I thought it was great. Humor and Inspiration are the keys.
There were a few problems with people competing with one another. The entire foundation of Toastmasters seems to be based upon politics. For there are Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Governors, Regional Governors, etc.....
There are those who were great speakers and am sure they get the most out of it and enjoyed helping others. Yet, one must be careful not to speak on politics for if you do, you can be blacklisted.
The Monterey Language Institute was a division of the CIA in Monterey, CA. At a contest they boasted and made 24 trips up to the podium to collect their ribbons. When I pointed this out to members the Governor was upset and chewed me out.
As a Sgt of Arms I was responsible for ordering the Toastmaster trademark ribbons made out of silk. They were very expensive at $120.00 for two envelopes of ribbons. This was a lot of money. Managers do not care how members seemed to be hurt and felt cheated when they did not win the ribbon.
It pits one member against another or a certain group. The very thing Toastmasters is suppose to do "Bring People Together" can be destroyed by a little ribbon. When budgets are low the elimination of this practice would save money for local groups. It does benefit the Corporation though. When one gives a superior speech over their fellow Toastmaster the applause will tell the speaker who was the best. Why rub it in the nose of the loser ?
I enjoyed reading some of the stories in the Toastmaster's magazine.
When one speaks in front of a Club as I did ever week for a year and a half. You get to know everyone's personality. If you were to give the same speach in front of a group of complete strangers you might not do as well. You take it for granted seeing the same indivduals every week. It is a controlled speaking environment. Based upon time and because you know everyone's personality. A great speaker can do this in front of anyone.
I witnessed a President deliver at the club level one of the best speaches I ever heard. Yet when he went to the Contest level he could not duplicate it. This is a perfect example of how speaking before the same people do not improve your ability to speak well. A Controlled Speaking Environment. A great speaker can deliver a great speech to anyone walking down the street.
This was my favorite thing about Toastmasters. For one can hear great speakers, whom can ad lib under any circumstance and this takes skill. This had to be the greatest thing about Toastmasters. Yet it was frustrating for one is always thinking of stories and throughout the entire meeting - I thought of a million topics to speak on, yet never had the chance. When I got the chance of doing table topics I could be funny. For I was not trying to be and it came out naturally.
It can take a lot of time to set up as Sgt. of Arms and preparing for a speech. I tend to prepare too much for my speeches. If you keep it simply and practice you'll do fine.
It was always fun to watch the experts in action. Those individuals who command your attention and educate you on any subject. One knows when they deliver a good speech and it is shown by their audience. The silk ribbons are childish and are expensive. I have seen a lawyer from Santa Cruz whom in the beginning could not speak without studdering. Yet while watching him on the public access television station he gave the funniest speech on birds at the park. It was TERRIFIC.
When you have two great speakers it can divide instead of bringing people together merely by that almighty ribbon. At the Contest level you can get several excellent speakers and it is really tough to judge who was the best. At this stage the ribbons are a good thing for these are the cream of the crop.
I was glad for the experience of spending over a year there and would recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their speaking skills. It is a good thing to visit different clubs so you get the variety of different individuals. Speaking in front of the same people week after week is not as helpful as speaking in different situations and in front of different people every week.
My faults in delivering speechs were being too prepared and trying to read it verbatium. Too much information for the audience to digest. I think the comments that other toastmasters give you can be very helpful, for it is easy to see what other people doing wrong. Yet it can be next to impossible to see the mistakes your making. I found when I delivered speeches off of the cuff I did well - or rehersed it by videotaping it and rewatching my expressions and mistakes I could not help but improve. Some toastmasters will listen to your speech and this was a great way to be prepared. The key to enjoying Toastmaster's is Humor and Inspiration. Stay away from politics and religion.
I would recommend not drinking coffee when it is your turn to deliver a speech. It made me too nervous. I delivered a short toastmasters speech in front of 75 students from all over California at Day Valley, Santa Cruz and received the greatest applause of my life and I did this speech as charity. Wow that was an uplifting experience.
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