An evening with Toastmasters

Last week I was thinking that I would really like to develop my public speaking & presentation skills. I’ve facilitated workshops for emerging entrepreneurs in tourism but it would be great to improve my speaking on different topics. I’d like to share my journey and be an inspiration to a bigger audience then just my friends. Not even 1 hour later, I’m checking my emails and I find an invitation to speak at a conference at the University of Stellenbosch. Wow!! Talking about be careful what you wish for. That was amazing, wasn’t it?

Lobby area @ Upper Eastside Hotel

I decided that some training and practice would be necessary. I saw a little notice of a Toastmasters get-together and decided that this was a great opportunity to start my journey in gaining experience. The meeting was held at the Upper East Side Hotel in Cape Town which is now 1 of my favorite venues so I was happy to drive to Woodstock.

I was warmly welcomed by some of the members and there was a seat for me at the table. The evening started with all kinds of announcements which took about 15 minutes. What I found amazing was that each person needed to be formally introduced, even the person who was going to introduce the next person. The meetings are very formally structured. Any new member starts with a journey of 10 speeches to achieve the level of Competent Communicator from where you move on to the Advanced Communicator level. Every member has name badges with their level, or no level. I saw some people with 2 name badges, not sure what level they have, it must be right up there!

I had a bit of a similar experience when I went to a BNI breakfast meeting which was also very formal and structured and with lots of name tags and levels and committees etc.

Lately I have mainly joined networking events with an entrepreneurial or creative character where the set up is quite informal and people just get right down to the point. So I was absolutely fascinated by the Toastmasters evening. Everyone in the room had a role to play and I’m sure it all serves a purpose. However, the evening started at 6h30 and it was finished at about 21h45. In those 3 hours and 15 minutes I had listened to 4 speeches which lasted about half an hour in total and I would say the same amount of feedback / evaluation time. I mean REALLY?? There was also a time keeper and a time keepers report. I got very impatient towards the end when awards were handed out for best speaker, best evaluator, best this and best that, people were give fines for saying certain things or clapping at the wrong time and then the ENTIRE evening still needed to be evaluated as well. This doesn’t work for me. Apparently there are Toastmasters meetings which are less formal, dinner is skipped and more time is spend on the actual learning of speaking. Or maybe I must just rather look out for a different format altogether. I’m a crash-course type of person. If I want or need to learn something, I look for the opportunity that gives me the most learning experience in the shortest amount of time with the best possible people. What do you think?

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