Hearing so many different experiences in Toastmasters makes this question quite difficult. I have asked a similar question to many toastmasters, “What have you learned from being in Toastmasters?” I always get a different answer. Some toasties tell me how the most important thing was eliminating filler words, while other masters of toast feel more comfortable in front of a large audience. Then some people prefer a small audience because speaking to a large audience is no longer important to them.
People start realizing what is important to them. Toasties find they are better listeners by excelling in writing out speaker evaluations and giving people great feedback to improve how to speak. Others have taken charge in meetings because they have had to practice filling roles and asking for help by being a toastmaster or board member. Being among friends that genuinely want you to be more comfortable with yourself makes it easier to speak. The ability to be yourself with a group of people that want you to improve how you communicate to others creates what I like to call ‘Group Acceptance’ that is the backbone of Toastmasters.
This ‘Group Acceptance’ leads to a lot of benefits toasties receive when attending meetings. Procrastination is something I am still working on and in the meetings where I practice my speeches, I get to experience myself as a prepared speaker. I can tell you the difference is astronomical; I get to be more authentic and present when I am speaking, and I notice the difference when I watch my recordings. I like myself more and judge myself less, even though I know I can improve. Then there is evaluating others, where I have the power to allow someone to feel better about themselves and see where they can improve.
Group Acceptance allows me to feel like I am part of helping others grow while I grow myself. I get to acknowledge my shortcomings productively and reach out to get help from mentors in the clubs I am part of. It is hard to explain this to someone that has not experienced it yet.
This is why instead of telling someone what I think they should know about Toastmasters, I end up asking, “What do you want to get out of speaking your truth to people that want to hear what you have to say?” Then I stay silent, listen, and maintain my presence in their company. Being an excellent audience member is more influential than telling someone why you think they should join. This is the most important lesson that Toastmasters has taught me so far and I am excited for the next lesson which is why I will continue to go every week.