My first six months in Toastmasters

A few days ago the new season of our “The Xplorers” Toastmasters Club began, and thinking back just six months, I am amazed to see how this new experience could have such a positive effect on me!

Picture by MarcelGermain from Flickr, some rights reserved

It all started after meeting a longtime friend whom I had not seen in a long while, and during our chat he told me about Toastmasters and how he got involved in such a useful and interesting activity. I had already heard about Toastmasters, and in the past I had even gotten in touch with a Club to gather information, but then I never went to a meeting.

Not so this time. I took part in the first possible meeting and I immediately found myself at ease in the environment, friendly yet professional, with meeting participants coming from all walks of life, with different age ranges, and an even split between men and women, it was definitely a stimulating environment.

And right there during the very first meeting I had my “baptism of fire”, as I was called to answer a question during the Table Topic session. I found myself very much at ease, given that I have always been used to speaking and debating in public.

And so began my trip in Toastmasters, being always present at every meeting, first as a simple guest, then taking active roles during a meeting (first as Grammarian, then as Ah-Counter, then again as Timer), until the time came for my “Ice Breaker”, the first speech to be held in front of the audience of Toastmasters friends. While I have a longtime experience of public speaking, having “only” 5 minutes and no PowerPoint slides to help was not that easy! Nonetheless everything went well, and the evaluations received from the speech Evaluator and other friends gave me indications on how to do better the following time.

This is the video of my “Ice Breaker”, speech I held in english:

Now I find myself almost at the mid-point of my path to becoming a “Competent Communicator”, the first step in the long career of a Toastmaster, but I have also started to progress on the “Competent Leadership” program, an equally important path to follow, maybe even more challenging than the communication one, at least for what concerns me.

Toastmasters is also this, pushing ourselves beyond our limits, in the direction of a personal growth, getting outside our “comfort zone” and doing things which are different from what we are used to doing. And my role as Secretary in the Executive Committee of my Club for this 2011-2012 season is exactly this for me, taking a commitment with myself and the other friends and colleagues and becoming more helpful to the group.

But Toastmasters is also about meeting new people, making friends and extending our “network”. And speaking of networks, it’s through another network, the Internet, that I was able to turn into reality something that I could hardly believe be possible, like having a great guest speaker such as David Allen, the inventor of the “GTD – Getting Things Done” methodology, a true guru of personal productivity and author of books read by millions of people. I have the pleasure of knowing David in person, and during his visit in Milan in June, his agenda allowed him to join us as a guest speaker during a Club meeting, telling us about GTD and how it can be so important and useful for all of us.

After all, writing this article is also a step towards a “Getting Things Done” mentality, with the aim of contributing to the growth of our Club. But in reality we all know that by contributing to the growth of our Club, we are simply contributing to our own personal growth.

Luca Bertagnolio
The Xplorers Toastmasters Club
Milan, Italy

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