Why Toastmasters? And How it Helps Your Daily Work.
On top of our busy schedule and life that we need to manage, relatively new members of Toastmasters and potential members of Toastmasters often have doubts about why or if they should commit to this process of improving public speaking.
I gave a workshop on Why Toastmasters and How it Helps Your Daily Work on Friday, May 7th, 2021. You may find the recording and slides below.
I first introduced myself as the senior product manager and product marketing manager of DGX Systems, and now lead healthcare AI startups globally at NVIDIA the last six years. I talked about how I started as a Toastmaster as a non-native speaker six years ago, put in the work, and enjoyed the journey. Today, I can comfortably stand on stage in front of an audience of 500 people. For that whole process, I’m indebted to the Toastmasters community.
Here are some functionary roles that helped me with my daily job:
- Toastmaster of the Day
This role helps me address the room confidently, manage a difficult audience, and set the tone and pace of events.
- Evaluators and General Evaluator
I learned to empathize with the presenters, practice active listening, and provide actionable next steps in my response.
- Table Topics
I learned to listen to the questions, understand the questions, and answer the questions.
I can now answer questions in a concise, structured, and humorous way.
- Prepared Speeches
Practicing prepared speeches helps me be confident, deliver every speech with a key message, and end with action oriented closing.
Then I described how Toastmasters also taught me the 3Ms — Mastery, Management, and Motivation — essential life skills to have to do well in life.
In the book Mastery, author George Leonard describes four archetypes to doing anything – the dabbler, the obsessive, the hacker, and the master. What most people think mastery looks like is on the left, but what mastery actually looks like is on the right.
A Toastmasters’ journey is the same – it’s a lifelong journey where the master stays on the path to mastery. After a brief burst of progress, each was followed by a slight decline to a plateau higher than the one before.
I further shared how I’m still on this mastery curve for Toastmasters – from writing a speech, to nailing the key message, to write a punchline for the key message, to improve my vocal variety, gesture, engagement, and more.
I talked about management in terms of managing time, people, and expectation.
We shared how we use a calendar to schedule speeches, a template to track speeches and progress, and put in reward systems for positive reinforcement.
We talked about how to prepare for contests – say yes, practice, and build in reward systems. See how Lakshmi, a member of Women L.E.A.D. Toastmasters prepared for her speech for an international speech contest earlier this year.
We also talked about the importance of a good night sleep (5 sleep cycles) and power naps, from some of the insights I learned from the book Why We Sleep. Power naps like 10-20 minutes is ideal for a boost in alertness and energy. This length usually limits you to the lighter stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep, making it easier to hit the ground running after waking up. One audience member resonated well with this and shared his story. When he didn’t take this advice and practiced all night, his speech turned out to be extremely low-energy compared to the previous rounds of practice.
Managing people oftentimes can be the hardest thing.
We learn how to be a great member first. See the blog post on “Be an Effective Follower First,” written by Sarah Tang, Sergeant of Arms at Women L.E.A.D. Toastmasters. She highlighted the importance of articulating key messages in an efficient, clear, and individualized manner to communicate with busy upper managers. Being an effective follower first is often the first step of being a strong leader.
Many of us also learn about management skills. We had a meeting on the topic of personalized communication on April 28th and our treasurer Samantha Jamwal captured the table topics that Megan Mayer, one of Women L.E.A.D. Founding team members led in that meeting. We were exposed to a wide range of communication styles. One of my favorite one is “KISS” – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Frank Luntz said it well, communication is “not what you say, it’s what people hear.”
Furthermore, we also learn to be a leader. In my blog post, “Lead in Any Situation,” I shared the four different leadership styles: telling, selling, participating, and delegating. We all have primary and secondary leadership styles. It’s important to be the right leader at the right time.
Manage Personal Expectation
- Give Yourself Time – You don’t need to finish ten speeches in a year. Five is okay.
- Adopt a changing expectation — if your speech didn’t go so well, all good. Write down what you can fix and go to the next speech. Keep doing it. A little a day goes a long way.
- Don’t judge yourself harshly – Think of yourself as an explorer in life, try new things. If it doesn’t work, all good! Try something else. Ravi, a audience member, shared how he often tries new things in his humorous speeches – some work and some don’t, but he keeps trying.
Manage others expectation
- Communicate clearly – No one knows how to make you happy if they don’t know what makes you happy. If you have a mentor, ask clearly what you’d like to get out of it. If you are the moderator for a few panelists, list clearly the commitment to participate.
- Predict Others’ Expectations – Everyone comes to a situation with biases and preconceptions. Ask clarifying questions. For example, what kind of mentor do you want me to be? What’s the cadence for our meeting?
- Prepare for Problems – Do you have a checklist for virtual game plan? I shared the virtual speaking engagement checklist from one of my favorite influencers, BronwynSF on Instagram
The last M is motivation. I shared that many people are motivated differently. Learning from the book Drive, we shared autonomy, mastery, and purpose as the top three factors for motivation. Read more here.
I am often asked how I’m motivated to read often. One tip is to figure out why not by asking five Whys. Ask “why do i want to do this?” five times and you may be surprised at your own answer when you get to the last why.
Enjoy your Toastmasters lifelong journey. You are on your own timeline and I hope you find your path and continue to improve at your own pace. See you at our next meeting on Wednesday May 12, 6:45 p.m. PT. We will be talking about confidence.
Written by Renee Yao, President of Women L.E.A.D. Toastmasters