How to be a success in Toastmasters …even life

Mark Carney, head of the Bank of Canada, is the new head of the Bank of England following an announcement by Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Carney, who many accredit with saving the Canadian financial system from collapse during the recent economic downturns, may have won the prestigious new position (the first for Britain which has never looked outside of the United Kingdom for a new head of their national bank) much for his people and media speaking skills as for his banking knowledge.

On the other hand we have the soon-to-be ex-mayor Rob Ford who, regardless of your political leanings, most would agree presented himself like a bull in a china shop during his time at Toronto’s city hall. His disregard for the rule of law has landed him in a heap of personal and professional pain which is not soon to go away.

So what has all this to do with Toastmasters….even life.

Do you think Mark Carney would have got the call if he’d just decided one day to skip an important meeting? What do you think would be the impact if Carney didn’t show one day and just popped back in the next? I doubt people would take him at his word ever again.

Carney would create the impression that he couldn’t be trust in the small things so why would anyone trust him to do the bigger jobs?

Same thing for Rob Ford. A man who’d disregard a basic tenet of sound business practice in the smallest thing might find people questioning about whether he can be trusted in the bigger things.

So in Toastmasters the way to be successful is to learn how to play with others in the Toastmaster sandbox.

It’s no coincidence that the most accomplished Toastmasters tend to be the ones who you see at just about every meeting regardless of whether they have an official job that night. The long-time Toastmasters know that even when they are not on the schedule, they still have an important role to play. That role is active audience member.

The active audience member provides the background for the newer speakers to succeed. The active audience provides immediate feedback by smiling and nodding and clapping during the speech. The active audience participates in the business session and table topics and gives written feedback to the speakers.

When they are on the schedule they show up or find a replacement. And if they do screw up (and we all do from time too time) they often make amends and make it right. They apologize and work even harder to win back any lost trust.

A member recently did exactly that when they missed fulfilling their role and I stepped in. The next morning I got an email apologizing for not showing up and offering to step in for me if I needed a replacement for a future meeting. Can’t tell you how impressed I was with this member’s thoughtfulness.

What we don’t do in Toastmasters (or life) is complain or blame others for our missteps. These are lessons Toronto’s soon-to-be former mayor has yet to learn. It’s a tough lesson to have to learn but this is how we learn to play nice with others in the club.

Toastmasters is about so much more than just public speaking.

Some of our best public speakers have figured out that there are lessons here to be found in leadership and how to be a supportive follower. Toastmasters International has long promoted the organization’s goals as speaking as well as listening and to be able to listen effectively you have to be at the meeting.

Sometimes the club in the form of individual members or executive members speaks to us offering lessons we need very strongly to hear.  This can be a painful learning moment.

I know this for a fact. Years ago I concluded my 10th speech to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. I was so thrilled and I was ready to accept the accolades associated with achieving the designation of Competent Toastmaster.

However, my evaluator, who was a very senior and accomplished Toastmaster, started his evaluation by saying my 10th speech was one of the best speeches he’d ever heard in Toastmasters but, unfortunately, it met none of the objectives as outlined in the Basic Manual.

I was shocked…hurt…embarrassed…and chastised. I don’t remember much more of the night and the next few meetings were a blur but the end result was I became a much much better speaker and indeed I became a much stronger and fearless evaluator. But best of all, in my opinion, I became a much better Toastmaster and in the long run a much better person as well.

These are just some of the things that offered to us in our Toastmaster club.

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2 responses to “How to be a success in Toastmasters …even life

  1. Harry Jeyanathan

    Thanks Peter.
    Very thoughtful and valuable information. This article changes my prospect of toastmasters.
    Harry

  2. Very valuable article, I hope all members appreciate this learning opportunity,