I remember the first day I went to a Toastmasters meeting. Looking at people and listening to their leadership positions like President, Vice President and Secretary sounded so fascinating to me. It was so interesting to look at club leaders doing club marketing (PR), sales (Membership) and management (Education) on their own as if a Toastmasters club was a mini start-up company. That day I understood that serving as a club leader could really help me learn some real-life business skills.
That was in 2014 and since then I have served almost all major club leadership positions. All of this taught be so many different skills under one umbrella. As Treasurer, I learnt to manage finances, as VP-PR I learnt to make captivating posters on Canva, as VP Membership I learnt Persuasion etc. If you are thinking that it has been an enlightening journey of learning, well, I’ve not even begun to tell.
The real skill that I built serving in a Toastmasters club is ‘Leadership’, and it has helped me quite a lot in my career and life. I think everyone needs to experience Toastmasters Leadership. Below are the 5 ways in which 'Toastmasters Leadership Experience' can accelerate your career:
1. Builds Empathy and helps you understand other people: In a non-profit organization, where none of your team is paid to work, there has to be something more than money that drives them. As a leader one needs to understand their team member’s needs, desires and reasons if they want to get things done. Even in corporate and business culture, so many people don’t work just for money. There are hidden motivations like recognition, learning, sense of achievement etc. Serving at my Toastmasters club helped me understand people and their motivations on a deeper level. This not only made me a better leader, but a better friend, brother and a human being.
2. Provides you an opportunity of 'Experimental Learning': As my mentor DTM Aalap Mehta said, “When financial obligations are associated to risk, most of us don’t go all out. When the fear of losing money goes away, experimenting is risk-free.” Most of us in jobs cannot leave our job and do a start-up to learn the basic business skills of Entrepreneurship like marketing, sales and leadership. It can be too risky for our career and life. However, while trying to run a Toastmasters club through its up and downs, experimenting 'what works and what doesn’t' teach us way more business skills than any business school. I attribute so many of my own skills to experimental learning – skills like Social media marketing, Content Creation, Designing, Writing etc.
3. Helps you build the right contacts: When you are leading in a Non-Profit organization like Toastmasters International which is spread all over the world, it adds to your credibility as a person. Having better credibility doesn’t only open new doors to new people in your city, but around the world. Today, sitting in a small city like Bhopal in India, I know some very good people all over the world, personally. I can leverage the network, pull some strings and can get a lot of help from people in different fields of work. Moreover, if tomorrow I decide to go to San Francisco or Tokyo or Munich, I know that all I need to do is go to a Toastmasters club and I will have at least 10 new friends in an new city.
4. Boosts your 'Self-Esteem': Serving in a Non-Profit organization can be life changing for some of us because what you get in return is not something tangible. All you get is respect, love, admiration, recognition and support of other people, which is all you need to feel good about yourself. This is often lacking in corporate culture. Knowing that even if you falter, fail or screwup, there will be people who got your back - is a blessing. This experience is enlightening because it reminds us that we are worthy of so much more. If more people served in Non-Profit Organizations, we might be able to navigate through the current crisis of depression, anxiety and meaninglessness in our world.
5. Teaches you the real value of ‘Service’: Serving with no monetary expectations helps you become more selfless and people centric. This is what precisely happens in a Non-Profit organization. Only if leaders in our world were more selfless, our world would have been an even better place. A leader who really cares for his people, is mindful of their growth and helps them get better is of real value and service. This attitude that you develop while leading at Toastmasters doesn’t just stop in Toastmasters, but follows you in your profession, society and life. That is when your influence grows, and people start trusting you more.
My experience in Toastmasters Leadership has been so rewarding and satisfying that I cannot put it in a single 1000-word article. I would rather need a full-day workshop for it. However, I hope this article inspires you to start your journey as a leader in your Toastmasters club. If you haven’t decided take on Toastmasters leadership yet, make sure you do it today. Your journey will be a rollercoaster ride that you will remember for the rest of your life.