This week in my BIS301 class, we were assigned the task of attending a Toastmaster’s Club meeting. The club I chose to attend was the “Pillow Talk Toastmasters” club that met at a fire station near my old high school on Thursday. Initially, I was nervous, as I e-mailed the woman who ran this particular meeting and she explained to me that this sector was a meeting for a “very small club.” Although I knew this meant there would not be as many people for me to be nervous in front of, I also knew this meant that whether or not I participated in the meeting would be much more scrutinized than if I had gone to a meeting with a larger group. However, the small group made me feel very welcome and comfortable. They began by going around and introducing themselves to their visitor, and then it was my turn. They explained to me the concept of an “Icebreaker Speech,” which is identified as the first speech given by every new member of Toastmasters. Since I was a guest, however, they let me get away with a short introduction speech during which I would explain who I am, my situation, what brought me to Toastmasters, and what I had hoped to do with the knowledge I acquired at the meeting. Even before starting my short, introductory pseudo-icebreaker speech, the members gave me a few words of advice that they said helped them when they first became toastmasters. They explained to me that, while the majority of people get nervous during public speaking exercises, there are many ways to cover up this anxiety—people cannot read nervousness as well as we expect that they can. Lacking the confidence of all other members of the meeting, I stood up and delivered my introduction.
Throughout the remainder of the meeting, I spent most of my time listening to the words and thoughts and ideas of all my fellow Toastmaster’s attendees. I was actually shocked and impressed at how well presented and confident the majority of these people were. They all had their thoughts and ideas laid out very clearly, they had funny/attention grabbing aspects of their speeches, and they had appropriate expressions and mannerisms to accompany the words they spoke. Overall, my Toastmaster’s experience was not as terrifying and humiliating as I expected it to be. Was it something I would have ever gone to or even KNOWN about on my own? Probably not. However, I’m glad I was forced to take an hour out of my day to peek in on a society of developing public speakers.