{Missed the previous Toastmasters posts?  Here's where I decide to join, and here's my week 1 experience!}

 

2nd Toastmasters meeting tonight! Good thing I wrote about it on the blog or else I might have talked myself out of going... #nervous

— Ashley J (@ashsaves) February 3, 2014

 

If you follow me on Twitter, (side note: you should!) you might have seen my nervous tweet from Monday night.  I was gearing up for my second Toastmasters meeting and was feeling a little scared.  That is one really great thing about this blog- if I claim that I'm going to do something, I have to go through with it or else you guys can call me out on it! haha.

 

I don't really know why I was scared... I had seen how the meeting worked the first week, so I knew what I was getting in to.  I guess it was just setting in that I was really going to do this?

 

But I sucked up my nervousness and went to the meeting.  The group was just as welcoming as they were the first time I was there! This time I was the only guest, and I was asked to introduce myself just like last time.  There were a few people there who weren't at the last meeting, so I stood up gave a brief introduction of myself again (probably like 10 seconds worth, haha).

 

This meeting was cool because the members stopped a few times to explain things to me.  For example, after anyone speaks, they clap a lot. Like, an obscene amount of clapping. But they explained that that's one of the most important parts of Toastmasters- making people feel valued and appreciated for speaking. So after anyone speaks (even if they're just introducing someone else), we clap for them all the way until they sit back down in their seat.  This is a lot of clapping.

 

The meeting was just as formal as I saw last week-- there was still the hand shaking and official introductions and planning the meeting down to the minute and a gavel. But I guess that's just Toastmasters! Maybe they make it super over-the-top so that you feel comfortable even in very formal meetings?

 

Table Topics

So anyway, the first part of the meeting was the "business" stuff (officers talking about training they need to go to, etc) and the second part of this meeting was "Table Topics". If you remember, the last meeting I went to had a Table Topics competition. Turns out the competition is a bit different than a normal meeting's Table Topics. The normal meeting version (which I guess happens every meeting?) has a "Table Topics Master" who stands at the front of the room and asks questions to people in the room. The people responding have to talk for at least 1 minute but no longer than 2.5, I think. (there's a timer in the back of the room who keeps track of this and puts on a green/yellow/red light depending on where you are in your time allotment)

 

Last night, our Table Topics Master started discussing the super bowl, and then began firing questions about it around the table. She asked one lady what kind of food she would cook for the super bowl, one guy how much he would spend on a ticket, and another lady what her favorite commercial was.  AND THEN SHE ASKED ME (!!!!) how I liked the halftime show!  YUP, I had to speak! EEEEEK!  I was so not expecting to actually be called on! I'm not even a member yet! The most awkward part was having to stand up at your seat-- I'm used to either standing at a podium or sitting, never standing at my seat?  Anyway, I did it, and survived! Whoop whoop!

 

The Table Topics portion is supposed to prepare you for every-day business situations. That's the thing you'll experience most in life- just a random question fired off at you and you're supposed to answer in a coherent fashion. So I definitely see the value in those exercises!

 

Speeches

Next they started the Speech portion of the meeting. We had 3 prepared speeches- one from a Toastmaster "Ambassador" (she works for Toastmasters International and goes around to different groups to speak), one from a member working through her Competent Communicator manual (that's what I'll start working on once I officially become a member), and one from the same member as last week who was working on a speech for an upcoming competition.

 

Seeing these speeches was great for making me realize why I want to join Toastmasters. The first lady- the Ambassador- gave one of the coolest and most impressive speeches I have ever seen. She was just there to give us a ~15 min explanation of how the Toastmasters program is going to change in the coming months/year. (evidently their program is SUPER outdated and confusing and it makes people not want to complete their programs, so they're revising it) I wasn't really looking forward to her speech because it sounded like it would be boring. But I was so wrong!

 

That was one of the most entertaining speeches I had ever heard- and it was on one of the driest subjects in the world! The way she presented it, throwing in a few jokes and really just presenting it in a straightforward manner was amazing. She made me realize that the speaker does have the chance to shape the audience's experience. If it had been a boring speaker, I would have zoned out and not gotten any of what she said.  But instead, she kept us engaged and I feel like I learned something! It was so awesome to experience.

 

The second presentation- the one from the woman working through her Competent Communicator manual- was giving a speech where you are supposed to focus on using gestures to get your point across.  So her speech had a lot of arm movement and pointing which was cool to see.  I don't know what I do with my arms when I speak, so I guess once I get to that speech I'll have some stuff to work on :)

 

Evaluations & Awards

After the speeches were over, the evaluators for each speech (they had been chosen in advance) were called to the podium. The thing that surprised me was that even the evaluators were timed and scored on their speeches!  They were supposed to speak for a minimum of 2 (I think?) minutes.  At the end of the meeting, we all voted on who we thought the best Speaker, Evaluator, and Table Topics person was, and awards were handed out.

And guess what? I WON A RIBBON!   Yup, you're looking at the Table Topics winner, no big deal ;)  I was later asked to give my closing thoughts of the meeting (just like last week) and I told them that they probably just gave me the award so that I'd come back next time, haha. But it was still cool to get my first award. I'm going to put it on the fridge!

 

Also, at the end of the meeting, they gave me a membership folder. I got the application for membership and some other booklets and stuff. I will fill out the application and bring that and a check for membership to the next meeting (in 2 weeks), then they vote on whether they want me in the club or not! SERIOUSLY?! YOU HAVE TO GET VOTED IN?! I was so shocked to hear that! Well, hopefully they vote me in! ;)

 

So to wrap up this super long post (sorry, I just have a lot of thoughts!) I'm really glad that I went back to my second meeting and I'm totally ready to continue this journey!

 

 

Have you ever seen an amazing speaker that made you completely interested in a completely boring subject?