“I would have never done my speech like that in the real world. Toastmasters’ is safe.”
That was the first thing I heard when I joined the conversation. A fellow Toastmaster had given a speech, received feedback and I thought nothing more of it until I heard that line later in the meeting.
The idea that speeches in Toastmasters are different from the real world is an understandable concept. Toastmasters is undoubtedly safe, and it’s that security that gives me the courage to push my own personal speech boundaries. Using props and costumes? I’ve tried that. Running around on stage? Yup. Breaking out into (horrible) song? Two weeks ago I was finally brave enough, and jumped in with my eyes closed.
But there is also another thought of mine: why can’t we use Toastmasters’ as a testing facility for real world scenarios? As fellow Toastmaster and speaker extraordinare Ian Cunliffe once said, (and I’m not sure where he heard this quote from) “we don’t come to Toastmasters to become better speakers at Toastmasters.”
A fair number of non-Toastmasters have asked me about the program and/or come to the conclusion that Toastmasters’ is a very controlled environment and whatever we learn in our regular meetings has no direct link to the outside world. But that could not be further from the truth. I’ve listened to wonderful Best Man speeches and given feedback. I’ve tried to understand terminology heavy engineering presentations (intended for a more knowledgeable audience than myself) and given feedback too. And perhaps the most difficult of all, I’ve listened to a very moving eulogy and wondered “what feedback could I possibly give to that?”
Whenever I tell someone that I am a Toastmaster, I am usually hit with the question of how to improve one’s public speaking. Usually I tell that individual there really is no secret: you have to plan your speech, prepare and practice. Practice, practice, practice. Sure, when an individual joins Toastmasters, the program is very structured. Ten speeches, and your first manual is done. After that great accomplishment, a ton of opportunities await. There are so many different speeches you could try your hand at next: Storytelling, Humorously Speaking, Speeches by Management, just to name a few. The program is designed to help you practice to the point where your confidence oozes over into your “real” life.
The Best Man speech, engineering speech, and the eulogy were three speeches that ended up being spoken out there in the “real” world. Each individual that did that speech turned to Toastmasters for additional practice time.
If you have a speech that you need to give out there in the “real world”, why not use your regular Toastmasters’ meeting as practice?
As the old saying goes, practice, practice, practice. Knowing Toastmasters, you’ll probably get insightful feedback in the process too.