My first full year in Toastmasters came to a close. What a year it was! From “Ice Breaker” to CC. From thirteen members to “President’s Distinguished”. And everything in between.
I joined Toastmasters to further my career, to be a better speaker. That’s why I started. But I stayed for so much more. It feels like yesterday when first visited the club as a scared guest. I gripped the door handle, peered through the glass . . . and I froze. I waited there, with my hand on the door, for what must have been seconds but felt like hours. I almost didn’t pull the door open. I almost bolted. And I almost missed-out on one of the greatest experiences of my life.
For my Ice Breaker, I made a decision, I told myself “don’t hold back”. I had already seen in my first few days, the magic in this place they call Toastmasters. I knew that whatever I wanted to get out, I’d need to put in.
Don’t hold back.
My Ice Breaker was scary. I put myself out there. I was vulnerable. But it was worth it. It was great. A great start to a great journey.
Last fall, when it came time for speech contests, I shrugged it off. Sure I’d given a few speeches by that point, but a contest wasn’t for me. I wasn’t ready. (Here’s a little hint Toastmasters . . . one is never ready.)
Don’t hold back.
I decided to go for it, and I won the club contest. But then at the area contest, I was in front of new faces. A lot of new faces. So one minute into my speech, I froze. Completely froze. It was a nightmare. I spent about thirty seconds looking around at the strangers in the audience, pleading with my eyes for help. That’s the thing about it, you can’t simulate getting in front of real people. Finally, I was able to continue. I survived and advanced, ultimately taking third place at the District Contest. The trophy is proudly displayed on my desk.
Then came an announcement, a TEDx show would be in Topeka. Wow, I thought, TED right here in our own town, I wish I had a speech worthy of TED. But I don’t have anything that interesting to say. I’m not ready. (One is never ready.)
It turned out, I did have something interesting to say. Toastmasters sort-of digs it out of you. I also remembered the lesson I learned with the Ice Breaker, “Don’t hold back”. So instead of wondering “what if?” I tapped out a rough draft and applied to be a speaker at the first ever TEDx-Topeka. Weeks later I got the call, I had been selected as a speaker! One month to prepare. *Gulp*
Toastmasters to the rescue.
I practiced portions of my talk at club meetings. I practiced in front of my kids. I practiced in front of my colleagues. I practiced in front of broomsticks and mop handles. Then two days before the big night, I practiced in front of the TED committee. I bombed. Froze up, once again. But it was the kick in the butt I needed. The kick in the butt we all need sometimes. The next 48 hours I prepared even harder. The day of the show, I came down with a cold. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to let that stop me, I’d come too far. I begged everyone I knew for prayers, and I stepped out onto the stage and onto the big red dot. I gave the talk the way I’d imagined giving it. The way I wanted to. I did the best I could do.
I could not have done it without Toastmasters.
What a year!
And since endings are beginnings, it’s now time to look forward to the clean slate that is next year. Unlimited potential. As we turn the page, we should all challenge ourselves, that’s how we grow. I myself will be a club officer for the first time. *Fingers crossed* I’m not ready (one is never ready). I hope I can help others as much as others have helped me. Because that’s what is so great about Toastmasters. You not only get to learn, but you get to teach. The best way to learn.
You give and you receive.
Thank you Heartland Toastmasters Club and District 22!
I started Toastmasters to be a better speaker. I stayed because it’s fun. I stayed because it’s a challenge. I stayed to be a mentor. I stayed to become a leader.
What will this year bring?
Aim for Impossible.
Michael Stewart is a member of Heartland Toastmasters