Toastmasters provides you layers of learning

Peter Martinez rides a motorcycle
Pete Martinez, a member of USDA Toastmasters Club 3294, turned his love of motorcycles into his life’s philosophy: “Ride all you can, while you can.” (Courtesy Pete Martinez)

Toastmasters is synonymous with speeches, but don’t get hung up on that.

Granted, the organization has longevity (112 years), global recognition (345,000 memberships that make up 15,900 clubs in 142 countries) and the ability to innovate (check out the new Pathways education program).

Yet the real strength is not in the manuals. This is not theory. It’s real-life practice.

Need to organize an event for 30 or 300 people? Ask a Toastmaster, who likely did so as a club and district leader and volunteer. Does the boss often catch you off-guard in a meeting with a question? No problem if you actively participate in Table Topics. You will get the hang of being articulate and poised in a very short period of time.

Toastmasters also can help you learn to think out of the box.

At a recent USDA Toastmasters Club 3294 meeting, Pete Martinez, one of our more seasoned members, served as Toastmaster of the Day. He could have easily phoned it in. But he didn’t. He blew us away with a two-minute slide show during which he talked about his experiences as a rider with the Latin American Motorcycle Association. He related those rides to our

work and membership through his motto: “Ride all you can, while you can.” What a great way to perk up a meeting. Pete set a new bar, at least for me.

Coincidentally, that same day I gave an ice breaker speech. Certainly not my first, but my first using Pathways. I loathed to talk about my life factoids, so I partnered with Henry David Thoreau. That day also happened to be his 200th birthday. I used his writings from “Civil Disobedience and Other Essays” and “The Maine Woods,” also referred to as Walden Pond, and interspersed quotes with various stages of my life and thoughts.

Henry David Thoreau sign and quote
Inspiration comes from many places. Henry David Thoreau’s writings served as the basis of an ice breaker speech. (Creative Commons)

For example, I used a Thoreau quote — ““It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” — to challenge myself and those listening. I’m learning that being busy is easy. Being busy successfully is something different indeed.

The speech worked. I took pleasure at my evaluation, which referred to the ice breaker as unique in that I introduced my intellectual self rather than the biographical or geographical self. The speech worked because I learned so many other tips and tricks as a member, not to mention ratcheting up my confidence level.

Sure, it was a speech, but so many other things I learned in Toastmasters helped me take a chance and do something different. Each meeting and each Toastmaster provides a lesson if you look and listen carefully. Added up, it begins to change you.

Toastmasters, like life, is a continual learning experience.

Kathryn Sosbe is a member of the Oxon Hill Toastmasters Club, New Creation Entrepreneur & Business Advanced Toastmasters Club. and USDA Toastmasters Club 3294. She served as the District 27 webmaster and designed the current site. She is a public relations professional who had a long career as a daily newspaper reporter and editor.

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