EXPERIENCE — Do you know about a public speaking community called Toastmasters? Or you never know anything about this? I asked my inner circle friend, only around 10% knowing about this community, and I only have 2 friends as Toastmasters members who I know before joining Toastmasters. To be declare first, I’m a Toastmasters member from June 2021, and this article was made purely from my point of view and my experience during one-year I became Toastmasters member. I love to share things and I think this article will help you to decide before joining Toastmasters from my point of view. So before further a do, I will start about how I know about this community. So take your snack and happy reading!
How it’s started?
Around May 2021, in the middle of pandemic, it’s a quite hard time for me. I need to decide to close one of my business before September 2021. I need to find the mitigation plan to do it, as swift as possible, as wise as possible. If you read about my last article on Doing Self-Learning, you will know that at that time I decided to close at June and I start to build a new business. In this time, I try to think globally. Because of pandemic, the ‘country border’ loosing, make it easier to communicate to people on the other country. As long as we know the language, and having an internet connection, everything complete.
So at that time, my priority was learning foreign language as soon as possible. English is my number one option. I’ve been learning English since elementary school. I’ve been to other country during my college (just for a week for a competition haha). But I still can’t fluently speaking English. I’ve been trying to take conventional English course, but I getting tired learning about grammar, past tense, present future, bla bla bla. Honestly, I hate to learn about the structure again and again, I need to start to speak! And learn about the structure along the way.
I ask to all my friend, “Do you have any recommendation?” Firstly, I got a community that try to learn English for free, I come to the meeting 3 times, but they don’t do the meeting consistently. Sometimes it lasts, sometimes it doesn’t. So I try to find another option. I ask my mentor about this, and unexpectedly, he have a friend that have been so long on a community called Toastmasters. Without hesitation, I try to collect information about this. I invited to their regular meeting at 10th June 2021, if I not mistaken. I join the meeting without knowing about anything, just spectating.
At first, I completely confuse about what they are doing to be honest. They do question and answer by doing karaoke session, they do long speech, open and closed by an emcee. It’s confusing but exciting at the same time. I never found a community like this before (even though there must be any out there that I don’t know before). The meeting was online, so it’s easier to come to the meeting. The Club named Eagle Toastmasters Club.
I decided to take a bet
I contact the contact person for membership, at that time it’s held by TM Michael Ariel — we call another Toastmasters member as TM at the first of their name. He explain about the fee to be member. Yes! Toastmasters isn’t a free community, it’s a non-profit paid community. You can come as a guest for free, but you would found the gems by coming only as a guest — I will explain about it later.
The membership fee is $45 per 6 months, and $20 for new member fee, only paid once. Actually it’s not that expensive in my opinion, but at that time I don’t have so much cashflow, because I just closed my business. Also my friends said it’s not that wise to use the cash reserve for trying something new (read: gambling) in that time. But I’m a gambler — no, a risk-taker I mean haha — so I take the chance. I paid it, and hoping something better happen for my life.
At first, I don’t know that Toastmasters is a big non-profit community-network that have been there for almost 100 years. I think Eagle Toastmasters Club was the one and only Toastmasters club (stupid me not researching about this before joining haha). As a Toastmasters member, I could come to another club’s meeting, we called it clubbing. Some months being a Toastmasters member, I surprised because I found something that much bigger than I thought before. It’s like an iceberg. You will found many hidden gems just after you join. What is it?
The iceberg hidden gems
You still remember that I said I was confuse with what they are doing at the first time I joining the meeting, right? I think it’s just people coming and start talking like the first community that I mention before. It turns out that its more structured. There are a regular meeting that will be conducted once a week or once in 2-weeks in the same scheduled-day. There are role-takers that on duty for conducting that meeting.
First we have emcee called TOM (Toastmasters of the Meeting), then General Evaluator to evaluate all the things that happen in the meeting. Under General Evaluator, we have Timer as time controller, Ah-counter to count how many filler words we said during the meeting, Grammarian to check about our grammar and unproper-use of language we said, Ballot counter to count a ballot to give appreciation to anyone who speak. There are also a Table-topic Master who prepared an impromptu questions for anyone to answer at the meeting. Also a Prepared Speaker and Individual Speech Evaluator who deliver a prepared speech and evaluating the speech. The structure is complete for a community meeting, isn’t it?
Immediately after we registered as a member, we can choose our Pathways. Pathways is more like a curriculum for learning. In every Pathways, there are 5 levels and every level consist many project. I took Presentation Mastery as the easier Pathways, and right now still on level 3 (it’s not because it’s hard, but I busy exploring the community not delivering my project hahaha). Prepared Speaker is a premium spot for anyone who want to deliver speech as a project. Sometimes there are also many projects to be Evaluator, to be Table Topic Master, to be Moderator, etc.
Also after we officially become a member, the VPE (Vice President of Education) will assign us a mentor to help us passing through Level 1 Pathways. This is so great because the mentor can be a barrier for us for not being lazy. Not just being a mentee, we can be a mentor also after we achieving some milestone. But anyway, this platform is fully self-learning in my opinion. Mentor can’t force us to delivering speech, it still based on us. We set our own timeline and our own goals.
More hidden gems
After a couple months being a member and completing my project, I offered to be an executive committee (excos) for the Club. Being a Club Secretary. Being an excos is another level of learning in Toastmasters. Because we ask to interact with others and planning something, of course using English (even though sometimes we use Indonesia for excos meeting haha). This experience will help us to enhance our confident to learn English. Learning is about habit, right? So to speak fluently, we need to get used to speak first using that language. We can fixing structure later, but mindset and habit need to be build first.
In this term (2022/2023), I became a VPPR (Vice President of Public Relation) for Eagle Toastmasters. Its another level because I need to communicating with others more often. Even using direct oral discussion or using visual. In my opinion, it helps me a lot to build my confidence to speak in English. Also right now I communicate with my business client using full English, and joining Toastmasters help me a lot to setup the foundation. Quicker than many years I spend before. Which is to learn about grammar first in school or conventional English course, but never start to speak.
More hidden gems, but in different area
Lately, a couple months ago, I found another hidden gems. It comes after my Toastmasters mentor invite me to volunteering in Division level. Toastmasters is more than just a single club. There are many level which is Area, Division, District, Region, and the Headquarter. On each level, we will always find new experience and new peoples. Right now, I volunteering for Division G (East Java, Bali, East Indonesia), and also on District 87 (Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei). Its a whole new experience for me.
When you come to a bigger level, such as District level, we are forced to speak in English in every occasion. Because our partner using another language, so the only proper way to speak is using English. Again, learning is about building habit. This is a good chance to build that kind of habit. At first, we are forced to do that until we are get used to do that.
For me, for the past 15 months, I got so much new things every time. Maybe for someone who are not explorer enough, they can get a heart attack — I’m joking — but for me who love to learn something new, this is a great game to be played. Although there are many things I found that I can’t share here — not because I’m mean, but I don’t want to turn this article to be a complete novel haha.
Any negative parts?
For me, the minus thing is this way of learn will take you time so much. If you are involving yourself into it too deep. Because I join as many position in Club, Division, and District level, my duty on Toastmasters always asking for time more than it supposed to be. So we need to be wise to control our time and our own capacities.
I know maybe you will ask, if Toastmasters is a non-profit community, why we need to pay for it? My answer is non-profit doesn’t mean they can’t organizing money, it’s just they don’t take the profit from the community, it comes back for the community infrastructure and development. In my experience, you will not sense the budgeting benefit if you are just playing in Club level except for accessing the Pathways.
If you play on at least District level, you will know how they structuring the budgeting and on which post they do the development and enhancement. Its will be to much discussion for a new member, but its important to know about this as part of your big goals. Also just playing on club regular meeting can be super boring, in my humble opinion. For a man who love a surprise in life, I’m not the kind of person who love to do the exact same thing over and over again.
More than that, I’m not yet finding any negative things on Toastmasters. Maybe its because I still on exploring mode, so everything seems good for me.
So the conclusion is?
I know it’s hard to say, and it’s uncommon. Normally, when we want to take a course or training, we need to know about anything that we can learn there before we decide to take the course. But for Toastmasters, trust me, it will takes so much time for you to learn all the things first before joining. For me, the best way to learn it is by involving ourselves into it. $45 investment per 6-months is relative, I can’t say it cheap or expensive for you. But for me, it’s cheap enough to get this kind of experience. If you are calculating carefully, for the first “bet”, you will need around $11 per months. If you are strict enough for your investment, try to breakdown what will you do every months in Toastmasters before joining.
It will seems like a bargain if you already know about what’s your goals per months. Just joining regular meeting as a guest can’t give you a brief picture about the overall potential. Even if you are a member, only joining Toastmasters regular meeting every 2 weeks is way to less to returning your investment, imho. Because you can’t build habit by only investing your time twice a months around 2 hours each. As I mention before, this platform is fully self-learning. Learn can be accelerate by you, and can be decelerate by you, its up to you. But for me, as a business-man, the best investment is the investment that you can control. If you know what I mean, you know what to do.
This conclusion closed this article about things you need to know before joining Toastmasters based on my own experience. Its my own opinion, so feel free to agree and disagree. I don’t ask you to joining Toastmasters if its not your way of learning. But at least by this article, you know what to expect and what to be missed from a 1-year member point of view. If you have any discussion, we can discuss it anytime on comment section. See you on the next time, thankyou, sampai jumpa lagi!