Posted on 29th Apr 2016 at 8:26 PM from Warwick, UK
At the beginning of 2015 I joined Toastmasters. This wasn't out of any need to do a speech but for my own personal development.
I certainly have not been disappointed. Since joining my confidence in communicating has increased significantly, I have met some great friends and my life feels better for the whole experience. However, it was never my intention to enter any of the competitions that are run. That was, until I was gently persuaded to enter the International Speech Contest by fellow members.
Having entered the club contest and the area contest, somewhat surprisingly to me, I won at both levels. So last weekend I went off to Leeds to compete in the district level of the competition. I didn't win this but I have been reflecting on the value that I got from entering the competition.
By entering the competition I got to meet new people from other areas with whom I probably would not have otherwise come into contact. I got the great feeling of winning at the levels that I succeeded.
However, the most important aspect as far as my personal development has been that it has given me the opportunity to really hone some of my more advanced communication skills. Going through the Toastmaster speeches we usually get the first one complete and start planning the second, get the seventh one complete and start work on the eight, and so on. It is only when we repeat the same speech over and over again do we truly get the opportunity to work on the more subtle components of communication.
Whilst delivering the same speech many times I was able to become so familiar with it that I knew every word, every inflection and every arm movement. This allowed me to concentrate and work on improving things like my finger positions, my facial expression and even which way my feet were pointing. This is something that I wouldn't have considered if I were just pressing on through the manual from one speech to the next.
So, competing has been tremendous fun and a fantastic opportunity. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, it has forced me to improve the finer details of my communication. In future I plan to repeat more speeches - it will slow my progress but I think it will give a higher quality to the progress that I do make.