Thanks to Toastmasters

As my Toastmaster friend Anna and I drove home last night from the monthly meeting of the transitions Network, TTN, we basked in the knowledge that we had given an outstanding presentation. Outstanding might be a slight exaggeration, but it was pretty darned impressive. Why? Because we had planned, organized, timed, practiced, and prepared. As we figuratively patted each other on the back, Anna pointed out that we should thank toastmasters for our success. These are the very practices that toastmasters teaches.

Anna and I are members of the writers group, which is one of 7 small groups within TTN. Each small group is responsible for making a presentation at 1 meeting a year. It was our turn last night. Since Anna is the lead of the writers group, it was her task to come up with a program. A few months ago, I had offhandedly offered to do an entertaining speech for TTN sometime, so Anna called me on that offer. She knew that I had been published in Red Book Magazine and Chicken Soup for the Parents Soul, and shes been following this blog from the beginning, so she asked me to talk about my writing experiences. Although I didnt feel qualified to speak as a writer, I wanted to do my part, and Besides, I never turn down the opportunity to speak. Once she had her speaker secured, Anna set to work organizing her thoughts on how the evening should go.

One of the exercises we do at the writers group meetings is to write from a prompt, a word, a phrase, or a question. We take 10 minutes and write furiously, then put down our pens, and we read our masterpieces in turn. Were always surprised at how differently we each treat the same subject. At our last meeting of the writers group, we agreed that it would be interesting to make reading our little essays as a demonstration, before we asked the larger group to try their hands at writing from a prompt. We also had entered a writing contest, in which we had to submit a 91-word memoir. We would each read our contest entries. As part of my speech, I would be calling on some of the women to read aloud my story from the Chicken Soup book and 3 of my blog entries. So there were 6of us participating in the presentation. This was going to take coordination. There were also considerations like making sure we had a working microphone and a lectern. Anna put her toastmasters skills to work and came up with an agenda that would keep the attention of the audience and make the program flow smoothly. In addition, in keeping with Toastmasters practices, she timed the whole presentation by reading aloud each of my articles herself in advance and estimated how much time I should plan to fill with my speech. Meanwhile, I practiced my speech, timed it, and wrote cues for each woman who was going to help me by reading aloud. By the time we gathered before the meeting last night, we all knew our roles and the order we were to perform them. We were ready, but we were relaxed and looking forward to showing the rest of the group what fun we have as writers.

As a result of all our preparation, we were showered with compliments afterward. Your speech gave me goose bumps. I can’t recall a meeting that was as engaging and moving. It is as if you are speaking to someone and we are listening in on a friend to friend conversation.

One of the goals I had set for myself in this speech was to inspire my audience to not be afraid to write. As women who are all over 50, we have many life experiences that deserve to be written about. I am grateful to this group for giving me the courage to call myself a writer. And I am grateful for the discipline of toastmasters. It does make a difference.

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