I joined Toastmasters after being invited to a club meeting by a colleague. At first I was a little overwhelmed by the protocol and regimental agenda, not to mention all that clapping. But once a few things were explained to me and I was taken under the wing of an experienced member, it all came into focus.
What seemed like a strict corporate meeting was actually an incubator for successful speakers and leaders. I began to see over the agenda and clapping and find the benefits of a safe controlled environment in which I could improve my speaking, try new things and get honest instant feedback to help me improve.
I was hooked and Talking Heads Toastmasters became my home. I got my ice-breaker CC1 done and began to plan ahead and practise my speeches. I set myself a goal to get to my CC10 within a year. This gave me time to take part in the various competitions during the year.
As I progressed through the speaking curriculum, I was amazed at how much I began to gain in confidence and improve on my speaking. It was evident that I was able to develop the skill of having different internal conversation with myself whilst delivering my speech. Not only could I write, learn and deliver good 7 minute speech, but also do a constant body scan, taking control of my feet, breathing, hand movements and finally relax my lower back. But also be able to scan the audience and interact with each one through eye contact, gestures and even a few unrehearsed comments to gain attention of those who had wandered into dreamland. I was becoming an accomplished speaker.
With my CC10 done and a number of competition awards for both club and Area in my first year, I began to tackle the advanced curriculum. This proved to be more challenging, with more focused assessments and a constant driving for excellence from my club members all drove me to improve even further. It was later that year when I began to develop my personal brand as a speaker for the commercial market to compliment my business career. One requirement that I picked up was the need to develop a personal brand and to write a book. Not just any book, a book on a topic that could promote me as a speaker through various keynotes and workshops. Just nine months later my book, Exploit Yourself was written, edited and on Amazon. I was also able to get a fellow Toastmaster, John Hambelton to assist me in converting the text into an audio book that is sold via our website.
Toastmasters seemed at first like a secret society of rules and clapping has turned out to be one of the most supportive springboards for both my own courage and my career, taking me to places I could not have hoped for.