I just concluded one year of being the President of my local Toastmasters club.
Toastmasters is a volunteer organization focused on helping people learn to lead and speak publicly. There are thousands of clubs all around the world. The institution itself has been around for nearly 100 years.
I found Toastmaster after a failure of an interview where myimpromptu speaking was awful. I looked up a local club and joined in 2014. I took on the role of VP of Education for a half of a year after someone left and then took on President the following year.
It was an enjoyable and stressful experience. The President is responsible for the club as a whole – to ensure it’s viability and that people can get access to the utility it provides. The other VPs are in charge of various functions within the club – new member, the website, the space, etc. If those VPs don’t do their job, you need to step in and do it and help them.
Since everybody is a volunteer, it can seem easy for me to shrug things off. Many people do. But I tried to instill a sense of responsibility in the VPs.
We spent some time putting together a club success plan, which is a roadmap for the year. Toastmaster International gives you 10 goals for your club for the year. If you achieve 5, you get recognition, 7 higher recognition and 9, higher still. We had achieved exactly 5 the previous year despite our club’s large membership and high visibility in the area.
I charged our club with achieving all 10. We talked about the goals at meetings and how they affect the club. The tough part was trying to combine the goals as set forth by this faceless group, thousands of miles away with our members individual goals. They could seem like a pointless check mark on a website without some context as to how it helped each person.
We ended up achieving 8 out of 10 to get Select Distinguished recognition. I was happy with that. We were very close to getting 9 goals and if we had focused a bit longer, we may have gotten there.
I learned a lot about motivating people, organizing people and trying to get a group of individuals to push for something together. It was frustrating at times, but at the same time, a lot of fun. The fun is inside the challenge.
The point isn’t necessarily to hit a number of goals, but it was for me to practice trying to help people to these goals. And in the progress, many of our members gave speeches and performed tasks that they’d otherwise have no incentive to do, developing their own leadership and speaking skills.
I would do it again and I definitely recommend Toastmasters to everyone who works for a living. It has helped me confidently speak to groups at work, coach other and present my ideas at conferences.