The Virtual Reality Gabbers
Have you heard about Toastmasters International? I had heard of it in passing more than once, but it was not something I thought about seriously until a friend invited me to join her club, as a visitor. When I accepted the invitation, our club didn’t have a name. We submitted our ideas to vote on, and The Virtual Reality Gabbers was the winning name. I have been attending for a year at the end of this month, and I am waiting for my Triple Crown Achievement Award in the mail. I have completed three levels in less than a year. I guess you could say I am hooked.
What I didn’t expect is how much I look forward to meeting on Thursdays. Our group is small, and we all feel like we are going to meet friends in our Zoom room. Our group includes mostly Americans, and I wouldn’t have met any of the members if I didn’t check it out. We inevitably talk about food in every meeting. We don’t really plan it, but it seems to be a common topic.
What happens in a Toastmaster meeting?
We follow an agenda in every meeting. There is a flag salute, and when I am in the room, we read the Canadian National Anthem. I am strongly advised not to share my love of singing with others by my husband, so we say it. One of the members has recorded her voice singing it, which would encourage me to sing, maybe on mute (haha) with her. There is nothing else comparable that I know of, and we make it work. I wonder what other patriotic additions we will add when the group gets more international members. We are actively looking for new members, and if we can get enough before the end of June, it will allow us to Charter as an official club. We are meeting under the Manteca Smooth Talkers until we have enough members to be official.
Next, we have an Inspirational moment. We sign up for each duty at the end of the meeting, weekly, on a rotating volunteer basis. A few weeks ago, a member gave me a high compliment by doing a Google search on me for her inspirational moment. I was very flattered, and it was something that was a complete surprise. After the Inspirational Moment, we start the meeting with some laughter. The Joke Master is responsible for bringing jokes to the meeting, and we are all expected to turn off the mute setting to share our laughter. It is a fun way to get the meeting rolling.
The Toastmaster runs the meeting.
They are in charge of introductions and keeping the meeting moving forward in a timely manner. We have a timer who also collects ballots for the Table Topics. The person who brings the Table Topics to the meeting gives a prompt, and members volunteer to speak for two minutes on it. This activity teaches us to be spontaneous and think on our feet so that when we are in a situation in real life that requires us to have an answer on the tip of our tongues, we can contribute and seem prepared. The Grammarian Um/Ah counter records flaws heard in the meeting for all who speak, but this is not a judgment; it is a friendly reminder of what we need to improve when we are speaking. The Grammarian also brings a word to be added into our Table Topics. You need to be within the 2 minutes of talk time and use the word of the day in your Table Topic to qualify to win the best Table Topic speaker of the meeting. In our group, it is bragging rights for a week if you are voted the winner.
There are also evaluators for both the meeting and for any prepared speakers during the meeting. Their jobs are to evaluate the speech, if there is a speech presented, to give constructive criticism. It needs to be as positive as possible and offer suggestions for areas to work on with a challenge for the next time. The general evaluator reviews the meeting as a whole and gives feedback to the different sections and the people who filled the roles for the meeting.
When you join Toastmasters, you will have a series of activities to work through in a pathway. There are a variety of pathways to choose from, and no matter what one you start with, your first speech will be a general introduction of yourself, called the Icebreaker speech. You then get to do your second speech twice, once before and once after feedback, so that you have a chance to improve it. Then you start choosing your speeches based on your pathway.
It is a lot of fun, and I am always in good cheer after the weekly meeting. I always feel welcome, and our club is very supportive of its members. We have a networking session if there is time, and we really do just chat about a variety of topics in that time. It is a five-minute break from the meeting before we get back to business.
Why did I join Toastmasters?
At first, I wasn’t sure why my friend invited me. I go live on my own personal Facebook page and talk frequently, so it is not because I am afraid of talking to people. She knew that I had potential in me to be a public speaker, even if I am still not quite ready to admit it to myself. I have been told that I am a natural and that I should consider being a professional public speaker by more than one person. I do like to tell stories, but I have always felt that I am better at writing than speaking. I love exploring my sense of humour, and I am getting braver about cracking jokes. But when I stop and think about it and get really honest with myself, I think the biggest lesson I have learned so far, other than making sure I am under the time allowed when I compete in speaking competitions, is that when I get really serious about my speech, people really do listen to what I have to say. I have been told that I am like a breath of fresh air because I am not presenting a cookie-cutter speech every time I have to deliver one. I do things a little differently, and it is celebrated so much that I hear people are talking about me in the meeting when I am not even in the room. I hope they only have good things to say, which I am assured they are. If you want to learn about taking your public speaking more seriously, to have people listen to what you have to say, then I would love to encourage you to join Toastmasters International. If you want to attend the same meeting I participate in, I would love to welcome you into The Virtual Reality Gabbers. You can learn more here.
Featured photo by Tish MacWebber, via Canva