Gaining social confidence through Toastmasters

By: Alisa Samuel

Published on: August 22, 2022

Photo: Fauxels (Pexel)

People who host big formal dinner parties were once was known as “toastmasters.” Today, the old American term has taken on new meaning in the world of public speaking—particularly for newcomers.  

What is Toastmasters?

Toastmasters is a non-profit educational organization with over 15 000 speaking clubs across the world. Since 1924, the organization has helped people become strong communicators and leaders. When a person joins a Toastmasters speaking club, they become a member. 

Members aren’t trained to become traditional toastmasters who preside at events or anything. Instead, verbal exercises teach members to communicate more effectively, for success in presentation speeches, the workplace, and personal interactions. 

Club meetings are essentially “learn-by-doing” workshops. Learn-by-doing is a teaching method that suggests people learn better and faster when they study something through their own actions. Rather than just listening to lectures, reading instructions, or observing other people’s work, learn-by-doing is based on hands-on experience and performance.

Let’s say you want to play a musical instrument. To learn the instrument, you must physically engage with it. You must discover where its sounds come from and how to make them by using your own senses. You learn by “doing” instead of simply watching or listening to someone play the instrument you yourself want to play. 

In a Toastmasters meeting, members learn how to speak in front of people by delivering preprepared speeches on various topics. Workshop meetings get more challenging as they go on. Members must adapt to those challenges in order to continue learning through action. The end goal is for members to stand before their clubmates and talk for four to six minutes straight.  

How does Toastmasters help newcomers with limited English?

Toastmasters welcomes people from diverse backgrounds. For limited-English speaking immigrants to Canada, Toastmasters isn’t going to teach you the English language. But speaking clubs are great spaces for English speaking practice. That is, to apply your language learning. Learn by doing!

Members write their speeches before meetings. Knowing what you’re going to say cuts the nervousness of communicating your ideas to others in half. After written preparation, members make their speeches with a focus on vocal delivery. Some aspects of vocal delivery are articulation, pronunciation, and fluency.  

Publicly speaking in a language that you don’t yet completely understand can be scary. The good news is that you can grow your English communication skills at your own pace with Toastmasters. You don’t even have to say anything in your first meeting. You can just watch and listen. Share any questions or concerns about participation that you might have with the club officer afterwards. The club officer will most likely encourage you on your path to strong speaking abilities. A couple of Toastmasters’ core values are service and excellence.   

Clubmates give each other respectful feedback on what they do well when speech-making and how to improve. Mentors are also available to guide newcomers in meeting their unique goals. One goal could be to feel more confident about job interviews. Another might be to simply feel comfortable carrying out everyday conversations with strangers in a new location. 

Why is Toastmasters a good way to make friends?

With the common interest to connect with others through speech, members compassionately support each other in Toastmasters meetings, creating a community-like environment.  

Case in point: Toastmasters’ Acting International President, Richard E. Peck, felt immediately welcomed when he attended his first meeting in 2006.

In a recent article for Toastmasters magazine, he wrote: “People initially join to learn something, to grow, and to improve themselves. And that takes not only a willingness from within to be vulnerable but also positive support and encouragement from others. I think that’s why so many of us have forged such deep bonds with each other.”

For stories about friendships made through Toastmasters, click here.

If interested, take your time in finding a club that best works for you. Start to build a social circle wherein you feel at home in this country with Toastmasters. 

Due to pandemic uncertainty, most meetings are currently held online. The cost of membership is $45 every six months with a one-time new member fee of $20.

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