I was at the divisional humorous and table topics contest last night which was held in Milton and was heavily attended by members of First Oakville Toastmasters who were supporting our own Sharon Jenkins in Table Topics.
But one thing I noticed was the display of cellphones by members of the audience. As the chair was calling the contest to order one woman sitting in front of me suddenly realized she had to terminate her phone call which we had all been enjoying so much. Lots of other folks were madly texting in the crowd.
The chair did caution participants to mute or turn off their phones which, as always, creates a moment of bobbing heads and button pushing. And then the contest began and went (more or less) smoothly.
Then we had a 10-minute break and it was interesting to watch the senior Toastmasters getting up from their seats to talk and share the great snacks and then to see four or five of younger and dare I suggest newer Toastmasters with their heads down over their laps texting while isolated in their chairs. How sad for them. Nobody has told them about the benefits of Toastmaster gatherings.
Oh sure I bet one of them was a neurosurgeon checking on a patient but all of them?
Texting is a great way to avoid intimate personal contact with other people. You don’t have to actually talk to anyone. Best of all since your head is down it’s a pretty good guess that others won’t even try to engage you in conversation. I mean what do you say: “Who you texting?” I don’t think so.
Improving our public texting skills isn’t the reason so many of us joined Toastmasters? It was to improve our speaking skills. And then we learned we could also increase our social skills and our listening skills and even our leadership skills.
For people out of work, Toastmasters was a way of resetting our own sense of self-worth while providing a pretty good place to network or to find folks willing to write letters of recommendation on our behalf. We were offered mentoring and most of us took it. We kept coming back to meetings. We met new people with new ideas. Maybe we even went to the bar after the meeting to talk some more.
I know when I joined Toastmasters many if not most of the men wore suits. At our club many members still dress up especially when they’re speaking. It sets a tone. It says you respect the opportunity you’ve been given to share with the group.
Even though I’m not looking for work or letters I rarely wear blue jeans to Toastmasters (and live in them at home) but I try to dress in a manner that elevates the tone of the overall club experience (I may have to buy a sports jacket at least) and when it comes to my cellphone, it sits in the car until I return from my meeting.
So far I haven’t missed a call 🙂
(This post also appears on The Toastmaster blog.)