Being interested in communication and public speaking, toastmasters is not exactly news to me; I’d heard of it in my early days in polytechnic, but for some odd reasons never got down to trying it out for myself. Most recently, having had a renewed interest in various aspects of communicating, I’ve begun devoting more time to debating and training, as well as set up a blog to practise my writing skills. The idea of joining Toastmasters came up again and this time I thought, “why not?”
For those who are not familiar, Toastmasters International is a public speaking oriented club set up to provide a conducive environment for people who want to learn how to communicate effectively to a large audience, either out of self-interest or necessity. It is not a skill that comes naturally to most, and many would attest to moments of stage fright, anxiety and even panic attacks as their minds draw a blank in front of a crowd. Under the guidance of senior members and fellow toastmasters, these people can then practice constantly in front of an audience, shedding their fear and picking up new skills and techniques along the way.
After searching online for the relevant information and even watching a few Youtube clips online, I decided to call on the Toastmasters’ club of Singapore, which holds its meetings on every monday of the week, except when there’s a fifth week. Alternating between YMCA (where Toastmasters International had its humble beginnings) and the opulent Sheraton Towers, I went for the latter, where the first meeting was held just last evening.
The experience was a pleasant one, as I met the current president, Ernest Chen and mingled with some of the other members of the club. There were many senior members as well, and during the table topics session, in which members volunteer to deliver an impromptu speech based on a given topic, they delivered outstanding and engaging speeches. I was very impressed, to say the least.
The projects session were very engaging as well. Projects in toastmasters refer to a set of speeches you need to perform and get evaluation for, in order to earn the title of Competent Communicator. They are organized in order of ascending difficulty and are meant to provide a step-wise approach to learning various skills and ways of presenting. Most of the speakers that night did not suffer stage fright at all, and many delivered eloquent and humorous speeches that kept us entertained.
As an added bonus, Ernest then made an announcement to waive guest fees and registration fees just for that night, reducing the cost of signing up by $70. I thought, that’s the rough equivalent of how much I spend on transport every month! And I was sold. Membership fees are steep at $480, but it is the only club I know of that meets 4 times a month. In my opinion, it is a worthwhile investment, and I look forward to contributing regularly at the club.