To this day, one of the most influential people in my life was an elementary school teacher. Her mantra – which she repeated many times – was: Each one of you in this classroom has infinite possibility. Each time she said it, she emphasized the word infinite. As a youth I memorized her words by repetition, and today I believe in her message wholeheartedly. It is the driving force behind me not giving up, embracing challenges, and learning new things.
In search of this infinite possibility, I joined the Toastmasters organization in 2011, and the experience has been transformational. While many people assume Toastmasters is a place to practice public speaking skills, this definition is only half true. The larger and more accurate premise of Toastmasters International is that it helps people realize their potential in becoming effective leaders.
My club meets every other Wednesday. Each meeting includes the following program:
- Table Topics: Thirty minutes of each meeting is devoted to a round of “Table Topics” — short, extemporaneous talks on a topic chosen by a group leader. This lively session gives members an opportunity to think on their feet and talk on their feet and gives everyone in attendance a chance to practice their skills.
- Prepared Speeches: Four club members present speeches based on projects from the Competent Communication or Advanced Communication manuals. Most speeches are 5-7 minutes long.
- Evaluations: A fellow member orally evaluates every performance from Table Topics. And each speaker has a dedicated evaluator who gives feedback in a helpful, constructive manner based on the objectives for that project, and all members write notes for the speaker.
Woody Allen said 80 percent of success is showing up; this is true particularly for Toastmasters meetings. First and foremost, all the opportunities around impromptu speeches help you combat the fear of public speaking. By giving evaluations to fellow members, you can become an effective mentor who helps others achieve their dreams. By becoming a member, you get to meet people who are as ambitious as you. Some of my club members are high profile executives at banks and law firms. It is extremely inspiring to see successful, charismatic industry leaders still come to the club to practice their skills.
The beauty of life is that you can transform yourself by learning new things. It’s totally up to you how much energy you dedicate to changing your status quo. Imagine how wonderful it would feel to get on a surf board for the first time, feeling the ocean underneath your feet. To master a new methodology or technique at your workplace. To deliver a captivating speech that receives a sustained standing ovation. These achievements are all within reach… after all, infinite possibility is within our grasp. It’s up to us to unlock it.