Getting more from Toastmasters – 3 tips

If you are a fairly active toastmaster, attending about 2 meetings a month, then you have spent at least 100 hours with toastmasters last year. What did you get out of these 100 hours?

I try to maximize my 100 hours and learn as much from them as i can. I believe my growth accelerates when i keep my learning antenna up. – i.e. I actively look out for lessons from everything around me at a Toastmaster meeting. Here are 3 quick ways you can do so too.

1. Don’t treat toastmaster meetings like television

Very often we find ourselves just watching the speakers, or sticking to just our meeting role and sleeping through the rest of the meeting. But by doing so, we missing out on a wealth of knowledge.
Maximize the time you spend at a meeting and keep the brain muscles active. Take notes about every speech you hear. Think about the speech and wonder why it worked or didn’t work. If you are confident, you could share your views with the speaker and if you are not confident – share it with someone sitting next to you.
This will keep your brain active and you ll learn a lot about speaking. Also, If you heard something inspirational, note it down in your Toastmaster notebook – yes keep one! There is a treasure trove of ideas at these meetings and would make a good read when you need inspiration.

2. Raise your hands often

Now that you are actively using your muscles at meetings, its also time to do more at meetings. Toastmasters is a safe environment and will challenge you in many ways. Make use of it by performing all the roles – from timer to Language evaluator. Yes, your language may not be great and you may make a terrible language evaluator. But your language will be better once you ve been a language evaluator – use it as an opportunity to learn.

Raising your hands often also means you compete in all contests. We are competitive by nature and contests force us to learn. Oh yes, you’ll never be ready, so do it before you are ready. And no – Nobody will laugh at you, unless you are a humor contest, in which case they ll laugh even if your jokes are bad. All am saying is that contests are the fast track to learning and nothing bad ever comes from it.

3. Everybody is an evaluator

So you are taking up more roles now? Did you wake up your VPE and ask him/her for the next Language evaluator role? Not yet? Please do so, i can wait.
Done? GREAT! Here is your ultimate learning tool:
Why only get one person to evaluate you? Be hungry for feedback, every member of the audience can give you feedback.
Initially, i used to get feedback from just the evaluator and few trusted mentors. However, i realized that I was missing a wealth of information from the audience. Three questions I commonly ask after every role are
“What did you like about the speech”,
“what will you remember”,
“was there something you didn’t understand”

Each of these are very open ended questions, allowing a person to comment on anything that made an impact on them. These questions are also aimed to avoid directive feedback (“you must move your hands by 45 degrees”). Without directive feedback, I only obtain general views and feelings that people felt – which is the most important! It further prevents me from getting into an analysis paralysis because of excessive suggestions.

Keep going…

Congratulations, you are now actively using your muscles at the toastmaster meetings, taking up roles before you are ready and asking everyone around you for feedback. Keep going, keep setting yourself new goals, help your fellow speakers and most importantly – have fun!


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