Building confidence through Toastmasters
Shane Mayer, Head of Partnerships, was involved with Toastmasters for years in San Francisco. After his relocation to Berlin, he decided to start a new club for all of our employees. In today’s post, find out how Toastmasters helps members around the world overcome their fear of public speaking and build confidence.
What is Toastmasters and why were you interested in starting Toastmasters at GetYourGuide?
Toastmasters is an international organization with over 16,600 clubs around the world. Their mission is to “provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.” I first joined a club when I moved to San Francisco and found it was an awesome way to improve my public speaking and myself all while meeting interesting new people.
After joining GetYourGuide I quickly realized this was a program that would really benefit our team here. There are so many talented people looking for ways to grow and learn. I was right, we had over forty people join!
What happens during a Toastmasters session?
The meeting is a finely orchestrated hour with a strict agenda. Part of Toastmasters is practicing the art of running a smooth meeting, which falls to the Toastmaster, who acts as the MC for the meeting. The first part of the meeting is devoted to hearing prepared speeches by members who are working their way through the first 10 speeches in the Competent Communicator manual. Each speech within the series of 10 focuses on improving a different aspect of public speaking - from body language to vocal variety. The second part is devoted to extemporaneous speaking, with a segment called "Table Topics," where members are called on to answer a question and speak off the cuff. The last part of the meeting is devoted to feedback.
Can you tell us a bit about your own journey with Toastmasters?
After joining Rainbow Toastmasters in San Francisco, I stayed with the club for a number of years, which allowed me to complete the Competent Communicator series.
Speaking has always been a consistent part of my professional experience in one aspect or another, so I found this series incredibly valuable.
How does Toastmasters help members conquer their fear of public speaking?
Toastmasters is a great way to go beyond fear and move into confidence. The foundation of this confidence is practice, and Toastmasters helps people by providing a safe space to practice. Nothing will help those who are afraid of public speaking conquer this fear better than practicing public speaking itself.
I feel lucky that public speaking has never been a huge fear of mine, as it is for many. Jerry Seinfeld has a famous joke based on the premise that public speaking is people’s number one fear followed by death: most people would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy.
For me, I’m focused on improving my confidence as a speaker, which has helped me become more confident in how I engage with the world. Toastmasters instills confidence in its members which benefits everyone, not just those who have to speak in front of audiences.
How has Toastmasters changed the way you communicate?
I always tell my Sales team that we are all selling all the time. The same can be said of public speaking: it's not just something we do on stage. Public speaking is something we do every time we speak in a team meeting or on a conference call. Toastmasters can help anyone become more comfortable thinking on their feet and becoming more clear, concise, and compelling in how they get their ideas across.
Practicing public speaking gives you instant feedback on how you're being perceived. You get it in the feedback section of the meeting, but also in the mood of the room and your audience. It's a great format to learn and has taught me how to be more compelling and hold people's attention.
I think I felt this most after a Toastmasters meeting where I gave a presentation about my Grandfather. He was born in Germany then fled to the USA in 1938, and now I've moved back to Germany. This presentation was a chance to share some interesting personal details about myself and I got a lot of very positive and inquisitive feedback.
What has been your biggest takeaway from Toastmasters?
It's a great program that, with minimal investment, can have a big impact on how you communicate. It's also incredibly fun and a great way to meet and get to know interesting people.