I did something with Wisconsin Toastmasters most people would never think about doing!
Before attending one meeting, the only thing I knew was that many professional speakers recommend joining a Toastmasters club.
Little did I know this international organization helps people develop their leadership, communication, and speaking skills. I needed all three; and still do to this day!
What surprised and impressed most people in the Wisconsin Toastmaster community was that I joined eight (8) groups at once. This wasn’t planned by me at all. It ended up being a calling which was easy to do with my entrepreneur schedule.
What I’ve learned over these last three years is more than what most people learn in a decade. With all the meetings I’ve attended, speeches I’ve given, and leadership roles I’ve been a part of, there are many different ways someone can get involved with Toastmasters which no one will tell you.
Finding The Right Group For You
I’m an over analytical nerd. Keeping that in mind, remember I joined eight groups in April 2014. But before I did that, I visited over 30 clubs in the Milwaukee area in the months of February and March of 2014.
My recommendation is to find the right club for you and your goals before joining. It’s the same concept as getting a quote from five service providers before hiring one.
This is a little secret I used to find the clubs which fit my needs; something I still use to this day:
- Find all the clubs in your area which fit your schedule and organize them in an excel sheet
- Only look for the groups which are “Open to the Public” – I made this mistake and attended a private corporate event for US Bank.
- Over the next 2-3 months, visit every group that fits your schedule
- Evaluate the clubs for future reference. I used a single notepad. Today I use Evernote. Depending on what’s important to you will determine what and how you evaluate the clubs; this is how I did it:
- Did they start and end on time?
- How many members were there?
- Was there friendship amongst members?
- How structured was it?
- How many awards did the group receive?
- Was I warmly welcomed into the meeting?
- Were all the leadership roles filled before the meeting?
- Were all the speaking slots filled before the meeting?
- How likely will it be for me to speak once a month?
- Is the meeting venue easy for me to get to?
- Is there ample parking? Paid parking?
- How many established speakers are there in the group?
- How much are the club dues?
- What does the club expect of me?
- What’s my overall feeling about joining this particular club?
I wrote these as questions for you so you can determine what to do with them. What I actually did for myself was write them in statements of what I wanted and then rated everything on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the best.
After visiting all the clubs, go back and find all the groups with the highest scores. Then, go back and revisit them again with a whole new perception. After checking out all the other clubs, your mentality will have changed. Re-evaluate them once more. Now, determine which club or clubs will best fit you are your needs!
Getting Creative with Speeches
I didn’t join eight Wisconsin Toastmasters clubs to go through their program, I joined to experiment with my speeches. Even though I have numerous awards, all of which I received in the first 6 months, I typically don’t follow the speech manual guidelines.
By going through the manuals, not only do you get awards and recognition, so does the club. When I was in eight groups, I would share my accomplishments with whichever club needed that to level up. Now? I don’t care. I’m in it for me!
I don’t care my manuals and I don’t plan on it anymore. If it bothers other members, then so what. This is a nonprofit organization which is around for YOU. I joined to experiment with material, that’s all.
I do highly recommend to follow the Competent Communicator Manual which is only 10 speeches. Then after that, do whatever tickles your fancy. Have fun, get creative, and go WAYYYYYYY outside your comfort zone.
Visiting Other Clubs
What I learned after I joined and paid eight other clubs is that I didn’t have to do that. By joining just one club, I can visit all the other clubs and give speeches there. Then you get a pin I earned but never applied to receive because you’re an Ambassador.
When in one club, you can go speak at another club and earn recognition. This way, you save a lot of money and are able to organize your schedule to do one speech and leadership role a week.
Experimenting with Failure
Failure is only feedback. I love feedback, which means, I love failure. Get use to failure because that’s the only way you’ll ever truly learn.
Over the years, I have never felt so comfortable purposefully trying to fail than I do in the Wisconsin Toastmasters environment. As I mentioned before to get creative, go outside your comfort zone; the only way to succeed in doing this is to get past many failed attempts.
Join a club and get moving.