by Petra Dubec
I was a newbie 2 years ago. As I reflect on the past 2 years somehow it feels like I have been a Toastmaster for ever. I think this is due to 2 main reasons: 1. Great encouraging environment, which creates the feeling of belonging; 2. Learning and growing – you soak it up like a sponge. Every week I still pick up something new.
You have joined – congrats! Now what? Here are some tips that helped me kick off my TM experience:
You’re probably wondering what it means to speak for 5-7min. I know I was.
Based on average speaking speed (130wpm) 5min = 650 word, 7min = 900 words.
My challenge was filling the minimum time requirement, but aim closer to the 5min mark as most people go overtime.
PRACTICE TO RELAX:
Easier said than done. Lot of my tension was in my jaw and neck, which I realized after my first speech, as I had a stiff neck the next day. Jaw exercises are helpful, I’m sure you can Google the best ones for you but below is a simple one I benefited from:
Open your mouth wide, and shut it again. Repeat 5 times.
Make a buzzing sound with your lips together, but don’t clench your jaw.
As funny as this sounds & looks, the pros in Hollywood do this, so go ahead relax your jaw muscles and feel like a super star.
ARRIVE EARLY TO MEETINGS AND GET INVOLVED:
There are huge benefits talking to the more experienced Toastmasters and I find they are such wealth of encouragement and Good Company. So arrive early to meetings and work on your social skills – try to talk to someone you do not know yet or don’t usually talk to, challenge yourself. In my experience it’s always proven to be a win /win situation (we’re all curious and take interest in other peoples’ lives). Get involved in committees to plan different events and practice your leadership skills. We all have something to offer and you’ll be surprised how many talents you’ll discover you have and how many you’ll gain from the experience.
GET A MENTOR:
Mentors are priceless; they will share their experience with you and pass on what worked for them. Most importantly they will guide you and help you achieve your goals. Besides their great advice, meeting with your mentor will force you to write down your goals and help you to work towards them. Working from your first manual is just a tip of an iceberg. So talk to your VP of ED or get someone you feel comfortable with and ask them to be frank with you. You need to take the initiative and express interest. Be open to suggestions.
What’s the worst thing that can happen? No matter how your 1st couple of speeches will land, it will be a gauge to measure yourself against. The lower it is, the higher you can climb. You’ll get great feedback and you’ll remind us of our own starting line, which we’ll appreciate.
Remember – we all have been there, so just have fun, the learning will follow!