I went to a Toastmasters meeting tonight with the Toronto Debate Toastmasters Club. While I don’t fear public speaking more than death, I know I could improve my oratory skills. I really really wanted to like the experience and therefore be willing to fork over the $110 membership fee required for a six month commitment. (I attended the first meeting for free as a guest.)
To my dismay, I wasn’t into the evening at all. I think part of the problem was my mood. It was incredibly humid in Toronto today, and my head felt very heavy. I also didn’t plan my eating appropriately, and therefore wasn’t hungry at 5:30 when I should have had a snack. The meeting ran from 5:45 until 8, and it would not have been appropriate to eat my apple while members spoke. Too crunchy. (Although that didn’t stop the girl sitting in the row behind me from eating an item from a crinkly paper bag.)
Another problem was the structure of the meeting. While it was very organized and well timed, it was a lot of up and down, with different members introducing this and that. And the clapping. Christ. I know we want to encourage one another, but we literally clapped after every single person spoke. Even if they said one or two lines. It ate up a lot of time.
This club features debates in addition to speeches, and I thought this might be beneficial for me because I find it challenging to articulate my opinion in certain situations. I ended up liking the speeches more than the debates. The speeches people really knew their material and were able to move around and show some passion. I didn’t feel that strongly about the debate part.
Lastly, and selfishly, I found that I only wanted to listen to the really skilled speakers. One guy talked about the Chicken Tax, and he was so knowledgeable and passionate. He made what could have been a dull topic very interesting. I felt like I could learn from this guy and others like him. Not to say you can’t learn from everyone. I realize that everyone has to start somewhere and I wouldn’t be all that great my first time out. If everyone only wanted to hear someone speak who was better than them, there wouldn’t be much of a club. But to spend over two hours every second week with a group of people, I need to want to be there. And I definitely didn’t feel like that, for all the reasons above.
I may try another toastmasters club. I might rethink tonight’s experience in relation to my mindset during the meeting and ask to be a guest again. Or I might pass on this altogether. Regardless, I’ll probably wait until the end of summer to make my decision. There’s just too much other summer goodness out there.
Have you tried toastmasters? What was your experience like?