Joining Toastmasters in Cebu
Now it's done: I joined my first Toastmasters club, Cebu Toastmasters!
Joining Toastmasters is another step I'm taking in my journey to hopefully one day become a great CTO and leader. Fixing one's flaws is a must, and public speaking is one of mine, no doubt.
So, this Thursday I held my Icebreaker speech, introducing myself to the club members, and making all the usual beginner mistakes. Hopefully not all, but definitely enough. ;) (Big thanks to the Ah-counter, who was gracious enough to overlook my ah-flood.)
Wait, what is Toastmasters?
Ah, yes. Quoting the About page:
Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs.
So, it's all about learning public speaking and leadership. The name comes from delivering a toast at an event, for example at your best friend's wedding, not from burnt bread or critizing someone until their feet are on fire.
There are two skill tracks: communicator and leader.
The communicator track teaches you to do prepared speeches. You'll do dozens of them, in front of the club members. Each speech has a skill for you to focus on.
For example, Basic Speech #5: Vocal Variety is about you dropping monotony, and instead emphasizing your point by varying volume, pitch, speed, etc. Basic Speech #8 is titled Get comfortable with visual aids, requiring you to use Powerpoint or a Whiteboard or the likes. See here for the complete list of basic speeches.
The way the leader track teaches you to lead is by having you participate and and contribute to the Toastmaster events themselves. Everything that happens is announced, prepared, performed or evaluated by someone—and each of those roles is something that regular members decide to do, in order to advance on the leader track.
So, the question becomes…
How does a Toastmaster meeting look like?
Toastmaster meetings are highly structured. As the quote above indicates, there are local clubs: a bunch of people that meet regularly. Leaving out some details, here's roughly how it looks:
It starts with welcoming by the moderator, the Toastmaster of the Evening. Who has previously been introduced by someone else.
Then, another member explains a new curious, seldomly used word, in order to expand the vocabulary.
The educational portion start with: the Table Topics. One member gives you a quote, a theme, an opinion, some small text, and then another member has to spontaneously give a 2 min speech about that topic. You might have guessed it: Table Topics is everybodys biggest fear, including mine, and half the reason why I joined. :)
The prepared speeches follow, usually three in a row. The educational portion closes with a relaxation portion: One member is telling jokes. Yes, not a joke: At Toastmasters even that is a skill to learn and practice.
Then, the evaluations start. Everything that has been said so far, from introducing the Toastmaster of the Evening, to the relaxation portion is being evaluated.
Starting with a general evaluation of the meeting, everyone talking so far has had an evaluator assigned to them, another team member that knows what the purpose of that speaker's part was. Every evaluator steps forth and gives their feedback, so that everyone can learn.
Aftewards, having listened to everyone, one member will give feedback on grammar errors and beautiful phrases. Another one counted “ah”, “uhm”, duplicate words, long pauses and other speech-fellonies, and reports on those.
Finally, the timer reports on how everyone that spoke until now has done regarding time: Because everyone had been given an acceptable duration for their part and you ought to stick to it. It's not enforced, but simply reported because mastering public speaking also means being able to deliver your point within a time limit. For example, prepared speeches have a duration of 5-7 minutes. Individual evaluators typically have 2-3 minutes alloted to them.
That's it. All this structure is provided as a program handout when you go to the meeting—which is also evaluated, of course. :)
What I like about Toastmasters…
… and why I've decided to join it:
- It's rigid: Everything is evaluated.
- The Toastmasters structure is well set up to motivate me: You're committing to show up twice a month. And since there is really no point in going, other than doing your speeches, you will practice public speaking.
- It's a well-built two-way street: The entire thing hinges on everyone participating, and the rules are built for that. Everybody that is there wants to be there.
- Still, you determine the speed of your progress.
- It's not a church. They don't want your eternal allegience. You don't need to sacrifice your favorite pet. It's not about your life. It's only about self-improvement. Join it to improve yourself, give back, do something else when you're done with both.
What's the investment?
- Money. You pay for a six-month membership, which will set you back $45. Additionally, there's a first-time $20 signup fee. Comparing that to seminar and workshop prices on this topic, yeah, affordable.
- Time: You need time to prepare your speeches and your roles, and you need to show up twice a month.
- Commitment: You do need to show up very regularly.
How do you choose your club?
Actually, you don't have to choose. You can join multiple. It feels like a good idea to start with one, though, to get the hang of things. At any time, you can join others.
Also, as you progress the communicator track, you can/should do a couple of your basic and advanced speeches in other clubs, to get different feedback and learn to speak in front of people you're less comfortable with.
I visited the three clubs listed below. There are more active clubs in Cebu, but their schedule did not suit me. All three clubs had a fun vibe, and I could have started in any of them.
In the end, I decided to stick with Cebu Toastmasters because I am impressed by the level of support they give their new members while maintaining an incredibly enjoyable atmosphere.
My plan is to later join Cebu South as well, as they've a different style of evaluating, and a different venue, with a stage, which will let me practice a different kind of speech.
Other Toastmaster Clubs in Cebu
There are many other clubs in Cebu. A search for Toastmaster Cebu on FB will let you find them, or you can reach out to me.
These are the two that I visited:
- Cebu South
- Midtown Toastmasters
Alright, that's it. Hope I could give you an overview. In half a year, when I know what I got into and what Toastmasters did for me, I'll write a follow up. See you then!