What Toastmasters Means to Me? - by Helen Alvarado

posted Apr 10, 2011, 2:34 PM by Tip Top

What Toastmasters Means to Me?

Speech at Tip Top Open House, April 2011.

I was planning to do this speech next month for my Toastmasters’ membership anniversary.  I was a rookie Toastmaster in May last year!  Since today we have an open house, I’d like to share my point of view on Toastmasters with our friends and guests together.

The reason I joined Toastmasters was simple – I had a lot of communication issues.  As an immigrant, English is a big challenge for me.  Before I felt nervous when the phone rang, or when I went to team meetings at work, or even when I ordered food at a restaurant.  I was afraid of speaking English under any circumstances, not just public speaking.

But, the most direct reason to push me to join toastmasters was because I failed all the job interviews when I wanted to find a better job last year.  I am a software engineer and my technical skills are excellent, at least I was told so by my co-workers and managers.  Obviously my issue was English communication.   I knew it was time to do something, so I joined Tip Top in May last year.

If you want to be a better speaker, you have to speak!  So very quickly I started the projects on the basic manual, which is the Competent Communication manual.  A 5 to 7 minute speech is not long, but it normally takes me a few days to write it out, and then 15 to 20 times rehearsing to memorize in order to deliver it without notes.  I finished my 10 speeches in the CC manual within 9 months.  

Actually I saw benefits from Toastmaster training immediately.  I started to feel more freedom in my daily life.  Three months later, I got a phone call from a recruiter.  This time, I used what I learned from speech preps on my job interview preps – I wrote down more details on what I had mentioned on my resume, and rehearsed and memorized.  Before my interview problem was I didn’t have very much to say.  My answers to interview questions were too simple and passive.  This time, as a result of good preps, I passed the interviews at different levels and quickly got the offer.  My direct response was, “eh, okay, the Toastmaster thing works!”  Now, I am very happy with this job – more interesting, more friends and more pay! 

Like I said, if you want to be a better speaker, you have to speak!  I knew this rule a long time ago, by why did I try to avoid speaking English before I joined Toastmasters?  Well, I am a technical person, so it is okay to be quiet at work.  At home, before my husband handled anything related with people.  I didn’t have to speak or nothing forced me to speak.  That’s one reason.  Reason two, I didn’t want to be laughed at or even fired because of making mistakes in speaking.  I chose safety over the risk of opening my mouth.  Of course, that safety cost me a great deal – I felt my life was limited.

But once I am here, I have to speak.  You see, everybody has a role in the meeting.  I am doing a prepared speech right now.  Shortly you will see table topics and evaluations…everyone has to speak!  More important, here you don’t need to worry about making mistakes.  It is a great place to screw things up and try new things out.  It is a perfect practice field.  Here I have peer players, I have coaches, and I have simple and effective programs to follow.

When I joined Toastmasters, my goal was simple - to improve my spoken English.  But over the course, I “discovered” many things are going on at Toastmasters.  Like today’s open house, it takes lots of leadership and teamwork to make it happen.  Every Toastmasters event, actually is a good chance for member’s leadership development.

Among those events, I enjoy speech contests the most.  Imagine, if you have 5 to 7 minutes to speak to the world, what you are going to say?  What most contestants do is to inspire the audience.  I always feel motivated after attending a speech contest – I ended up having competed at an Area level contest this spring and placed 2nd, which I never dreamed before. 

So with Toastmasters, I am also discovering myself.  Surrounded by so many excellent people with great leadership, I realized that I tried so hard to change my careers from business administration to technical, not only because I am more interested in technical stuff, but also because I had been trying to avoid leadership and management.  But not anymore, I have a new goal now – I want to be a leader, and I know Toastmasters will help me get there!

In conclusion, Toastmasters means a lot to me.  It means a perfect practice field for public speaking and leadership development.  It means confidence building – not only the confidence in public speaking, but confidence in many aspects of my life.  It means the discovery of my own my potential.  All in all, it means a better me and a happier life.