Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Toastmasters International got a Christmas present from the New York Times

It was an amusing 2200-word article by Henry Alford titled Ahem, Ummm, Well...(Joining Toastmasters to Overcome a Fear of Public Speaking).

Their intrepid investigative humorist discussed his mostly positive experiences at the New York Toastmasters club located in the city with that name. Mr. Alford commented that:

 “....Most of the group seemed shy and skittish, but a few of the men had the willed steeliness of the motivational speaker or serial killer.”

Surprisingly some of his descriptions of Toastmasters aren’t quite correct. For example he says the person who counts Ahs and Ums at a Toastmasters meeting is called the Grammarian when, of course, it’s the Ah Counter. (Some clubs combine those two roles to Ah Grammarian, which is perfect for obsessives or fussbudgets). He also says that members give prepared speeches that are four to seven minutes long. Eight of the ten speeches in the basic Competent Communication manual are five to seven minutes long. The first Icebreaker speech is four to six minutes, and the last Inspire Your Audience speech is eight to ten minutes. There also are longer speeches in some of the advanced manuals as shown here

After you have read his article you might consider joining Toastmasters, as I did. I found that being in a supportive club environment eventually reduced my fear of speaking to an acceptable level.

You should do more research first though. Henry said he did a Google Search to find a club, which is silly and something you definitely should not do. Instead, go to the Toastmasters International home page, look at the upper left corner, and click on the red FIND a location near you box. In the U.S. you can search by ZIP code and pick the preferred meeting day and time. There are 173 clubs within 10 miles of ZIP code 10016.  84 are open to all, but most others have member eligibility criteria (are corporate clubs). A few others like Bronx Advanced Speakers are specifically for experienced Toastmasters.

Times Toastmasters is the corporate club at the New York Times. That’s why I was surprised some of Henry’s descriptions weren’t correct. Whoever edited the article didn’t even bother to ask their inside subject matter experts, those club officers.

If there are several Toastmasters clubs in your area, you should visit more than one  before you join. Clubs differ, and one might be a much better fit for you than the others. Think about what day and meeting time would fit best into your life. If you’re a morning person, you might prefer a club that meets at 6:00 AM. Or, you might prefer noontime meetings. If you’re a night owl, you might prefer dinner time or evening meetings. Some clubs meet weekly, while others only meet on alternate weeks.

In February 2011 James Feudo posted A Primer for Attending Your First Toastmasters Meeting as a Guest. I suggest you read it. Mary E. Mann didn’t, and freaked out, as I described back in August.  

Carol M. Highsmith’s image of Santa Claus came from the Library of Congress.                

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