Sunday, June 19, 2016
Running away from Toastmasters
On June 17th Jane Genova blogged about Toastmasters - Style over substance, and said she agreed with Jame’s Feudo’s 2012 blog post analysis (The Problem with Toastmasters) of Toastmasters International.
Jane’s post is as interesting for what it leaves out as for what it says. She said:
“I experienced what Feudo complains about during the three weeks I recently attended Toastmasters' meetings. At the end of this month I have to deliver a one-hour presentation. So, I decided, it was time I fine-tuned my speaking skills. Ever since I had started writing speeches for corporate executives, my colleagues have been pushing me to join Toastmasters.”
Just three weeks? Why not three, or six, or twelve months? How far did Jane actually get in their basic Competent Communication manual? She didn’t mention having given ANY of the ten rather brief speech projects in it. The first project is a 4 to 6 minute speech, the last is 8 to 10 minutes, and the other eight are 5 to 7 minutes. I was in Toastmasters for four years, as I discussed in my August 8, 2011 post about Moving on beyond Toastmasters.
One of Jame’s earlier blog posts, Tips for Toastmasters: How to get the most out of your Toastmasters experience, suggested that you should:
1] Commit to speak at every meeting.
2] Commit to earning your CC (Competent Communicator) or equivalent in your first year.
3] Become an officer.
4] Show up at meetings.
5] If you’re new, get a mentor. If you’ve been around for a while, be a mentor.
6] Get to know the other members of your club.
7] Visit other clubs.
8] Attend conferences.
The Competent Communication manual begins with The Icebreaker (4 to 6 minutes):
“For your first speech project, you will introduce yourself to your fellow club members and give them some information about your background, interests, and ambitions.”
Most people wouldn’t have a problem with telling their story, but in a September 18, 2015 post titled Narratives - No, you don’t have to tell the one about the wasted investment in law school Jane had said:
“I learned how liberating it was to stop telling ‘my story’ when I relocated from the buttoned-down Northeast Corridor to the whatever Southwest. No one encouraged me to disclose why I had come, what I hoped to accomplish, or how long I planned to stay. The ambiance mirrored the ethos of the Beatles meme Let It Be.”
Jane seems to have confused the Toastmasters International program with the quick-and-easy but much more expensive ‘product’ shown above.
The image of a running girl came from the Library of Congress.
UPDATE: June 21, 2016
Jane put two comments on this post on June 19th. One at 2:38 PM was:
“Before exploring Toastmasters, I have been enrolled in several other public speaking training programs. From them I had learned a lot. That included what I found helpful for me and what was not helpful. I did not perceive Toastmasters as providing me what I needed at the time, in the format I needed it.
Toastmasters may be effective for some. It did not seem that it was going to be for me. In the future if I sense I would benefit from public speaking training, I will not try Toastmasters again. ”
The other at 2:41 PM was:
“Since I had benefited from other formal public speaking training programs in the past I knew what would be effective for me and what wouldn't. After three weeks I decided that Toastmasters was not for me.
There is no one way to enhance one's public speaking skills.”
I never said there was just one way. If she just had looked under the Toastmasters label, she would have found my July 15, 2010 post titled Public speaking training is a journey; You get to choose how to go. I believe that Toastmasters is effective for many or most, not just some.
Then she whined about me in the second part of another June 19th post titled Hilary Clinton Isn’t Such a Hot Public speaker - So? There she mentioned her background with Dale Carnegie public speaking training and said:
“One of my new strengths has been the ability to size up a situation and make the decision whether to stick with it or move on, nicely. That has become a necessity in this volatile economy. Essentially, it's project-based. No longer is it dominated by client accounts which stick with us for years.
Every day I have to decide: Should I accept this account? If it's souring, should I give it more time or provide a sweet cover story and exit? My living depends on the quality of those decisions.
I applied that ability to attending Toastmasters. Toastmasters is the well-respected brand for training Everyman in public speaking. At a low cost.
After three weeks, I determined nonono. Not for me. Here is my post on that.
Previously I had been enrolled in myriad Dale Carnegie speaking seminars, including one for sales presentations. Twice I had been selected as a graduate assistant in the Dale Carnegie Systems. Also, as a speechwriter, clients often enroll me in the same public speaking training as their subordinates undergo.
So, I was no newbie as to what is effective for me in public speaking training. So, it's puzzling: A Richard Garber censures me on his blog for bailing out after three weeks. He had been in Toastmasters four years. I am happy for him that the training was a useful tool in professional development. But I was also equally surprised he imposed an "ought" on me. Here is the rant he delivers. My my. I have been a naughty girl.
Yes, it has occurred to me: Maybe that seeming absolutism voiced by Garber is the ethos of Toastmasters or, at least some of their members. Maybe that's what sent me toward the exit. The reality is: There is no one path to success. There are many. Most, like Clinton's, are unique.
A heartfelt plea: Please please please, the Garbers of the universe. Let us discover our own ways to enhance our strengths. Our living depends on that. Directly.”
There is a crucial difference between Dale Carnegie and Toastmasters that pops up instantly when you glance at their web sites. Toastmasters is a dot org - a volunteer-run membership organization based on clubs with (usually) weekly meetings. Dale Carnegie is a dot com - a commercial franchise operation that sells seminars like McDonalds sells hamburgers.
Thinking that she could fine-tune her speaking skills by very briefly attending Toastmasters was a sad delusion that showed her misunderstanding, clearly based on minimal research and planning.
Could Jane have gotten something useful from being a member of Toastmasters International? Yes, but it would have taken her six-months or more to get there. Tucson is a big enough city to have more than one Advanced Toastmasters club. There she would have found other experienced speakers. But completing the Competent Communication manual is a requirement before joining an Advanced club.