District 39

Where Leaders Are Made

Where Leaders Are Made

stephanie_smallThis interview series will reveal insights about what motivates members to join and succeed in Toastmasters.

Q: Stephanie, what was the original catalyst that prompted you to visit Toastmasters?
A: I was unemployed in a bad post-college market, looking for anything to give me a leg up. While job shadowing a reporter (my degree is in Journalism,) he mentioned Toastmasters could be beneficial for me as a way to not only improve my public speaking (because no matter how good you are there’s always room for improvement) and network with business professionals. So I looked online, found Lodi Toastmasters was the closest with the best time and everything is history from there.

Q: How long you have been a member?

A:  I first joined 2-3 years ago. There was a time when I had to stop being a paying member due to financial reasons, but I kept coming when I could and this last quarter was able to reinstate myself as a Toastmasters member.

Q: What was it about the first meeting experience that made you want to come back?

A: To be honest, I don’t remember a lot of specifics about the first meeting. I remember winning Table Topics my very first time. I’ve noticed with open-ended Table Topics and new people there’s a lot of real raw honesty that can go into a first-time guest’s table topic, which is what happened with me. I also remember how nice and open everyone was to talking and I probably stayed around chatting for at least 20 minutes after the meeting had adjourned. I came back because the people were friendly, because I wanted to see if I could get something out of it and because at the time I really didn’t have much to do with having no job. Having a weekly meeting helped give me a sense of focus and purpose, even if it was just one day out of the week.

Q: What are your 3 proudest achievements in the club?

A: My greatest achievement is undoubtedly when I competed in the 2014 Table Topics Contest. I made it all the way up to the District level and took 2nd place. I had done Speech and Debate in high school but I had never competed on a level like that. I haven’t been able to compete since then, but I’m hoping to soon.

I’m proud of finishing my competent communicator manual (and in a fun twist of fate, that achievement was the last needed qualification to make our club eligible for a Distinguished Club that period).

The last thing I’m proud of isn’t necessarily an achievement, but I’m listing it anyway. I feel like I’ve become kind of a go-to person in my club for speech evaluations and there are a lot of newer members who ask me for advice on prepared speeches and table topics. I’m proud of that not only because it shows how far I’ve come within Toastmasters but it also makes me feel that I can really give back to a group that gave me so much.

Q: What would you recommend to other clubs looking to attract and retain more members like yourself?

A: It’s difficult to say, but I think the best practice is to take the basic benefits and word them to a newer generation of needs. Millenials might not hear ‘public speaking group’ and think they need it. I didn’t at first. I had done 4 years of speech and debate and was completely comfortable speaking in front of a group… so why did I need something like Toastmasters? It was the possibility of professional networking that really caught my ear, but I ended up staying because I could feel my self-confidence improving and not just when I was speaking.

Toastmasters is so much more than just speech practice and it’s that valuable ‘everything else’ that I think would catch Millennial attention. Toastmasters is interviewing with authority; it’s leading a team with confidence; it’s daily social interaction skills; it’s professional networking; and it’s preparation for everything from a classroom presentation to a report to your boss to a YouTube channel and everything in between.

Q: Anything else you want to add about Toastmasters’ benefits for you?

A: There’s a sense of self confidence and speaking with authority that I cannot stress enough. There’s been so many times members of my family have commented about how good they think Toastmasters has been for me and how they have noticed changes because of it. Keep in mind, none of these family members have gone to a meeting or seen me compete (though hopefully one day!) What you learn from Toastmasters doesn’t stay at the meetings or only spring up in the workplace. It sticks with you. I have noticed a change in even my casual conversations with people. I’m more confident, I listen better and I speak better.

Q: So how is your job search going?

Just recently after a long bumpy road, I finally started my career job and I’m having to do some kind of report or presentation, formal and informal, at least once a week. Toastmasters has been extremely helpful, but I also think that without Toastmasters I may not have gotten this job at all. Over 200 people applied for this position. Of those 200, only 20 were invited to take a test. The top 4 scores of the test were then interviewed. Just this week, my manager told me that the first time she met me in the initial testing phase, she didn’t know who I was or remember what we spoke about, but she remembered how I spoke and acted and her initial impression of the smallest of verbal and nonverbal interactions was that I could be someone she could work with. In the actual interview panel, my manager told me that I had been everyone’s first choice. I don’t know if any of that would have happened without Toastmasters, but I can say with 100% confidence that Toastmasters helped me get there.


Big thanks to Stephanie for sharing! Connect with her at steph_maynard@yahoo.com.

Share your ideas in the Facebook Member Group!
David Goad, Social Media Chair, District 39 facebook.com/davidgoad davidgoadspeaks@gmail.com