Toastmasters is Torture! So why do it?

I am going to share my secret fear with you. My shrouded scare paralyzes me with dread, leaves me speechless, and ties my tongue tight. OK, here goes, I am a terribly shy introvert who cannot stomach the slightest notion of public speaking. Just writing it out strikes terror into my heart, dampens my armpits, and erupts hives all over my body. Sexy.

The terrible truth is, I freeze when confronted with a stage and a group of unknown people. Perhaps this terror is residual fear from my high school days when pimple-faced teenage girls poked fun at me while I played my trumpet for band ceremonies. Perhaps I was a teenage knob and deserved the ridicule. Regardless of why I hated standing up in front of a crowd, I knew I had to do something about it later in life.

The realization my public speaking skills where holding me back hit me hard last year when my 90-year-old grandmother asked me to give a eulogy at my grandfather’s funeral. I was touched and honored by her request. I was also sweating a small river through my shirt.

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My grandfather was a popular fellow in his town of residence. He was a decorated veteran, a respected business man, and he dedicated his life to several volunteer service groups. Due to his community service and popularity, I knew the whole town would be in attendance for his closing ceremonies. I knew I had to speak to hundreds of people. I knew I had to speak well. I knew I had to do my grandfather proud.

I joined Toastmasters for help. Toastmasters is a group of talkative folks who get together weekly to speak publicly. Toastmasters spend several hours a week preparing, practicing, and verbalizing speeches. Some are master communicators, others are sweaty-pitted neophytes like myself.

I was surprised by the depth of skill at Toastmasters. I was also surprised with the welcoming and friendly faces who greeted me each meeting. No one laughed. No one pointed. Everyone wanted to see me do well. They wanted me to grow. They wanted me to succeed.

The path to exceptional oratorship is not an easy one. To be an experienced Toastmaster you must be able to introduce speakers, use body language effectively, use vocal tones with ease, and speak on a topic with enough grace to engage an audience. Toastmasters are sticklers for grammar. They care about speech organization, topics of passion, and speech length. I was surprised they timed each speech with tools usually reserved for professional athletes standing on starting blocks. I was also surprised at the end of each meeting when the “official um counter” delivered the tally of everyones vocal slips. My best night was “2 ums” for a 3 minute speech. My most prolific tally was “16 ums” for a 2 minute mutter fest.

I’m far from crossing the finish line to “Master Toastmaster” status. I’m still a fledgling speech crafter working my way through the um’s and ahh’s of clearer communication. But during my vocal journey I’ve discovered some surprising financial benefits to becoming a better public speaker.

Here are five reasons why becoming a better public speaker can help your finances:

1. Negotiation:

Can you talk money? Can you ask your boss convincingly for a raise? Can you close the big deal? Being a better public speaker can help you negotiate raises, deals, and conduct money matters to your benefit. Sure, it may take some brass balls to ask your boss to “show you the money”, but the ability to formulate an argument and persuade your case is really half the battle. Not uming and ahhing your way though “the big ask” helps too.

2. Business presentations:

I’m not a fan of the boardroom. But the ability to speak to any level of management without sounding bored is essential in business. Career-defining speaking situations can happen at any time. The trick is to know how to speak to these money making encounters when cornered in your office, hallowed in the hallway, or elevated in the elevator. The ability to give a quick sales pitch, present a proposal, or bellow a business brief with skill and ease can impress (or depress) those with career influence. Presenting ideas successfully can only help your career and money earning potential down the road.

3. Listening:

You may hear, but do you really listen? Improved listening skills are an unexpected side benefit to becoming a better speaker. Listening thoughtfully raises the financial stakes in any conversation. Paying attention to the audience, watching their reaction to your words, and understanding their body language helps to gauge success. If the audience looks uncertain, why not ask “is this clear?” to reestablish rapport and clarify any loose ends. The ability to listen to your audience can make or break the deal.

4. Networking:

How are you with mingling and working a crowd? Do you get introduced to people or do you do the introducing? Joining Toastmasters has had a huge impact on my ability to introduce colleagues and business acquaintances with grace and ease. I used to be a wall flower, now I’m better at working the room and growing relationships.

5. Pick up chicks:

My “better half” suggested this one. Like me, my “better half” is a shy introvert. But when we first met eons ago, he was pretty darn happy I persuaded him to see a movie. He says he’s a richer man today because I was the better communicator. While this sounds silly, my “better half” may be on to something. Being a good communicator, presenter, listener, and negotiator can only help you build a stronger relationship with your spouse. If you can’t talk money openly, or balance a budget fairly, the road to riches can be stifled. Learn to bridge the communications gap with your spouse and get wealthy through your years together.

Indeed, along with doing weddings and funerals, there are many financial gains to garner by being a better public speaker. Do you fear public speaking? Do you see a financial gain to speaking up loud and clear?

Your two cents:

  1. Four Pillars March 23rd, 2008

    Great topic – I’ve been thinking of doing TM but haven’t pulled the trigger yet….

    Mike

  2. fox March 23rd, 2008

    My last speech was on beans. Seriously. The Toasties think I’m nuts. 😉

  3. moneygardener March 24th, 2008

    Taking on something that is torture in order to improve yourself is very admirable.

  4. Sue March 24th, 2008

    Congratulations on joining. Hope you continue to enjoy the group.

  5. Mrs Pillars March 24th, 2008

    Beans & toast go well together.
    This was a very brave move. I’m also terrified of public speaking. At my last job, it took years for me to be comfortable talking to my own team if the format was “meeting”.

  6. fox March 25th, 2008

    Mrs Pillars: You got me good with “beans & toast”. I’m slapping my forehead for missing it myself. 😉 Indeed, the format of “meeting” is a terrible one for meee toooo. I prefer the format of “home with hubbie”.

    Sue: The group is filled with super nice people. But I’m a little ways off from actually enjoying the sessions. We meet Mondays, and by Tuesday I’m already fully dreading the next session.

    moneygardener: Thank you thank you.

  7. Mr. Cheap March 25th, 2008

    Same as Mike, I keep meaning to join TM… Good for you for taking the plunge. Is it true that they don’t say anything negative, just point out whatever positives were there? The “um counter” sounds a little negative…

  8. Pinyo March 29th, 2008

    Same as Mike and Mr. Cheap. I have been meaning to do it as well. My mentor recommends it many times to help me improve my public speaking skills, but I haven’t done it yet.

    PS: I am also an introvert…

  9. Finance Girl March 30th, 2008

    I’ve thought about doing this before too. I did original oratory one year in high school, but was always nervous as hell. I think it would help with presentations at work.

    I say um a lot too. 🙂

  10. Jerry April 4th, 2008

    This is a great description of the growth process experienced by Toastmasters that apply themselves to overcoming their fears. I have been a TM for many years and have seen people go from not being able to introduce themselves to the ability to present powerful speeches on very personal and intimate topics to large groups. Contributing to this growth in others is one of the reasons I continue to participate in the “self-inflicted, self-improvement process” of Toastmasters.

  11. Emily April 4th, 2008

    I joined TM in 2005 at my workplace. Last year I moved to Shanghai,China and was surprised to find over 22 clubs in Shanghai alone. Now I’m a mentor for two individuals, a sponsor for two new clubs and in the China Advanced Toastmasters club. I’d encourage everyone to check out a local group – Toastmasters are extremely friendly and just want to improve themselves, and help their fellow members improve too. We help each other through positive evaluations. During the evaluation, you’ll hear what the speaker did well and specific points to improve on. There is a manual you work out of, and only one thing to work on per speech. If you use that one thing (like organization, vocal variety, visual aids) your speech is considered a success.

    The ah-counter helps you by picking up your filler words. Most of the time, people don’t realize they use those words. By being aware of them, you can get rid of them – and every person at the meeting has some!

  12. MissZ April 9th, 2008

    I’m a Toastmaster in The Woodlands, Texas. Ours is a new club and very welcoming of members. We are a group of seemingly unrelated individuals who come together successfully to improve our communication skills.

    I’m one of the odd people who have always enjoyed public speaking. I get nervous just as I’m sure most people do, but I thrive on the challenge. My best advice is to follow the Nike motto and “Just Do It” Stop thinking about joining TM and just do it. What’s the worst that can happen, you learn to communicate more effectively…..

  13. Writing and Speaking April 30th, 2008

    Nice post you’ve got here.. Quite helpful. I really enjoyed reading this post. By the way, how did the eulogy for your grandfather go? Just curious. Anyway, thanks for posting this.

    –Stephen

  14. Msminiducky May 16th, 2008

    Oh, my goodness, I *just* made the decision to join TM last week. I have to admit that I’m pretty terrified about the whole thing, and it’s really comforting to hear that YES, it’s good for you.

  15. Miss Kimmie February 5th, 2009

    I found this site yesterday, and TOMORROW I attend my first TI meeting. Regardless what our fear is, its effect on us stems, in some fashion, from how we think we are perceived by others. I’m a 50-year-old skilled professional in the midst of a career change, and I’m scared stinking silly that I won’t be able to pull it off. Public speaking is not my problem; it’s the fact that the cahones that enable me to speak have failed me. I believe that the TI experience will help me not only hone my existing skills, but also provide a boost in confidence that I sorely need. I hope it is the safe, positive environment I think it is. If you’ve been “meaning to do it”…DO!

  16. SAM February 14th, 2009

    Nice post! I’d just come back from a TLI session yesterday, and now I really understand what it means to be a Toastmaster. (TLI- TM Leadership Institute)

    IMO, TM is really like nothing else; the warmth, enthusiasm, and positive attitude adds to the value of bring in TM.

    My experience has been that of bouncing back and forth being an introvert and extrovert. Suffice to say, it was a personality conflict when it came to working the audience while I speak.

    As for the common denominator of fear and trepidation in speaking- I’d been reading for a scientific basis for it, and discovered that it’s due to a mixture of social and biological conditioning. It comes down to the need for the self to protect itself from others.

  17. Jerry February 14th, 2009

    I’m a long time Toastmaster and a “believer” of the organization and growth process it fosters. I love this thread and I’ve left a comment before. I wanted to share a note that a TM sent me after I offered to help her organize an important speech she is giving to her organization. She practiced parts of it in the clubm wants it to be betterm and recieved several offers of help.

    “I’m so inspired by this group. I grew up feeling that everyone was pretty much on their own in life, which I know is not a recipe to do good work and have a fulfilling life, but there it is. I’ve not been in a room with so many people who have such altruistic intentions, who are supportive and encouraging to do more with life and are willing to actually help each other. It’s a revelation and gives me hope.”

    Hope you all are reaching your goals and I hope you are recieving help and support as you stretch.

    Jerry

  18. Miss Kimmie February 16th, 2009

    When I walked into my first TI meeting a couple of weeks ago, I was immediately greeted with enthusiasm, support and encouragement. IT WAS OVERWHELMINGLY POSITIVE, and I loved it. I give my “ice breaker” speech in 4 days, and the next day I am COMPETING in an evaluation competition. I figure the best way to master my fear is to jump right in there, because I KNOW how good I am at avoiding that which makes me uncomfortable. Aside from the speaking, I have never, ever, ever walked into a room, not knowing a soul, and immediately felt as if I was with old friends. kimmie

  19. celena July 30th, 2015

    I was reading an article on yahoo, the article talked about 9 things in life that will make you a better person by being in uncomfortable situations. One of them was speaking in public and Toastmasters was one of suggestions that came up. Where I currently work I talk to people very day everyday couple minutes I have to re introduce myself to random peopel. After 3 years of doing this I have realized I have so much to learn and to improve. Doing research on Toastmaster has really inspired me, but I don’t know if I have to courage to dk it.

  20. Tom C Daly November 29th, 2015

    I would realy like to learn more about public speakimg. I joined “Rotary Club”? And I think it will really help me along.I think my T.m. would be in Hancock, Michigan.

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