A Perspective from a Toastmaster

by Pham Quoc Binh (binhp@sa-htn.valmet.com)
February 24, 1995

Life used to be kind to me until I finished my BS degree in Computer Science. While my friends, one after another, quickly received attractive job offers, I encountered rejections after rejections. It became obvious to me that the problems are me, and they were deeply rooted. I was not prepared for life after college, because nobody advised me, and I naively relied on good grades to carry on. I was shy. And, I had troubles communicating even in Vietnamese. :-)

In my efforts to conquer shyness and to become a confident communicator, I tried self-help books, an assertiveness training workshop, a college level public speaking course, and Toastmasters. Having been with Toastmasters for six years, I have benefited a great deal from it, and now I want to introduce it to you. Below are main points:

1. What is Toastmasters?

2. I don't have ambitions, I have no need for public speaking, I don't need to join Toastmasters

3. Yes, I desire to get ahead. What does Toastmasters can do for me?

4. How is Toastmasters more beneficial than other forms of speaking improvement?

5. What happens at a Toastmasters meeting?

6. Where can I find the club nearest to me?

7. Forming Vietnamese clubs

8. Why men and women don't speak the same language? [This is a bonus for those who read my entire article] :-)


1. What is Toastmasters?

The name "Toastmasters" is a holdover from the founding days of the organization, when one of the main types of public speaking is a member of society would stand up after the dinner and give a toast.

Toastmasters is a non-profit educational organization. It has 8000 clubs around the world. Its mission is to improve communication and leadership skills of its members. Mainly, this works out to "improving public speaking skills" but there are also potent leadership and management opportunities if you are interested.

2. I don't have ambitions, I have no need for public speaking, and I don't need to join Toastmasters. :-)

You may be right, but I want you to consider the following points. First, communication skills and interpersonal skills are always needed to get good jobs especially these days when job hopping is the norm. Being part of a speaking club, you learn by doing, watching, listening, and getting feedback. Regarding getting feedback, I find the feedback I receive are valuable and sincere.

The skills you gain from the club are portable -- at work, in family, or in any social situation. Being better at those skills, you are increasingly sensitive to what is said and what is not, and you become clearer and more concise; the chance of misunderstanding is reduced, and the chance of cooperation increased. My experience with co-workers and Toastmasters is that the latter seem to have happier families than some of the earlier.

Second, you meet good friends, old and new. The club is an effective reunion place week in week out, you never run out of interesting topics to talk about. You begin to enjoy others' speeches, some of which are entertaining or educational. You will enjoy their fellowship, and they will appreciate yours. I find that Toastmasters are very nice and understanding.

Third, as parents or parents-to-be, you desire to see your offspring to be better than you, and usually your wish is realized. So, if you better yourself, your children will have a chance to start at a high level. My parents were shy, and I inherited their shyness. I has been a struggle for me to get to where I am, and I paid a HEFTY price for it.

3. Yes, I desire to get ahead. What can Toastmasters do for me?

Besides receiving the benefits mentioned in (2), you have chances to constantly elevate your communication, presentation, and leadership abilities. As your improved communication skills become obvious within the workplace, you may find that increased visibility, recognition, and promotion will follow.

When you improve your presentation skills, you increasingly command respect and admiration of your colleges. When you improve your leadership skills, you also enhance your management potential. You become more effective when it comes to motivating and persuading.

Benefits from Toastmasters are many; You get out many times more than what you put in.

4. How is Toastmasters more beneficial than other forms of speaking improvement?

First, self-help books by themselves give good ideas, but the lack of group support and feedback will make it hard to practice those ideas.

Second, college courses in public speaking usually involve the students sitting through dozens of lectures followed by about five speaking opportunities. When the speeches are over, you get a grade. Often, you get graded on what you did wrong. This isn't a way to build reassurance and motivation. Then too, you rarely get much of a chance to practice by doing. Toastmasters is constant reinforcement and constant improvement. You learn by doing, not by sitting there while someone lectures for hours.

Second, for-profit courses such as Dale Carnegie can be very good for their participants. But they cost a lot and when they're over, they're over. Toastmasters costs $36 per year (plus club dues of around $36), and it can last a lifetime.

5. What happens at a Toastmasters meeting?

While the format varies slightly from club to club, the basics include:

Meetings last anywhere from one hour (especially at lunch or breakfast) to two hours.

6. Where can I find the club nearest to me?

Simply telephone Toastmasters Headquarters at (714) 858-8255 and ask for the locations of the clubs near you. Alternately, drop a postcard to Toastmasters, P.O. Box 9052, Mission Viejo, CA 92690 and ask for the local clubs' listings. You may be very surprised by how many clubs there are in your area.

If you would like to find a club via email, email drex@kaiwan.com and ask. Dan Rex is in charge of marketing at Toastmasters Headquarters. In your request, remember to give information on know where you live and what type of club you're interested in: morning, noon, evening, etc.

7. Forming Vietnamese clubs

After you become confident Toastmasters, you may want to help build a new club. This will be rewarding as you grow through leadership experience, and experience the happiness of seeing others growing.

Being Vietnamese overseas, we are spred over the cities over the world. If we have Vietnamese clubs, then we can bring our people together to have educational experience and fellowship at the same time.

Whenever possible, help build Vietnamese clubs.

8. Why men and women don't speak the same language?

Thanks for reading this far. About the answer, it is because women and men use the language for different purposes. Women use language to build rapport, to establish connections, and to achieve union while men use it to report knowledge, to achieve objectives, and to solve problems. For women, talk is a bonding agent, but for men, it is a practical tool or nothing. :-)

In conclusion, constantly improving your communication and leadership skills should be one of your continuing education objectives. Toastmasters can be a good friend of yours, and you should check it out. You will be rewarded with skills that will be with you forever, and that will make you very effective in marketing thyself. Your job, your pay, and your life will be better, I am sure. Good luck in marketing thyself. :-)

References: alt.org.toastmasters newsgroup, Frequently Asked Questions.


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