Ten Reasons Not to Join Toastmasters
by Susan Biagi of Sunshine Speakers Toastmasters, Powell River, BC, Canada
1. If you join Toastmasters, you’ll discover things about yourself that you never knew before… and may not want to know. For me, it was gripping my hands. I was a workshop facilitator for 20 years before I joined Toastmasters. And throughout all those years, I gripped my hands. Did anyone ever tell me that? Of course not! They were afraid of offending me. It wasn’t until I gave my first Toastmasters speech that someone mentioned it, in the kindest possible way. I now try to keep my hands by my sides. It works for me, and is less distracting for my students. But if you want to remain in blissful ignorance about your own annoying quirks and habits, stay far away from Toastmasters.
2. You will be asked to step out of your comfort zone. At Toastmasters, we have an activity known as Table Topics, where people are called upon to give impromptu speeches. Of course, the ability to speak intelligently off the cuff does come in handy if you’re ever stopped by a cop and have to do some fast talking about why you were driving 15 kilometres over the speed limit. But hey, maybe you prefer to wing it. (Unless you’ve learned to control your emotions and thoughts under pressure, your changes of successfully winging it are pretty low.) Still, go ahead and experiment. You don’t need Toastmasters.
3. You may have to give up 20 or so lattes a year to afford the annual fee. I can’t argue with that decision. Especially if you really, really like your lattes. By the way, do you know that an average latte contains about 260 calories? Whatever. Keep your lattes. Of course, you won’t receive a great Toastmasters magazine free in the mail every month. You won’t get to enjoy the free coffee at the weekly Toastmasters meetings. And you won’t find friendship and personal growth. But hey, it’s your money.
4. If you go to a Toastmasters meeting, you’ll be surrounded by people who are way, way better speakers than you are. This is bound to rub off. In a few years, you’ll be one of the veterans the newbies look up to. You’ll be the person who wins contests or the person who tells hilarious jokes. You don’t need that pressure.
5. You’ll be encouraged to enter competitions. And what’s worse, you’re probably going to win. Powell River has this annoying little habit of winning first out of the gate. Our competitors hate to see us coming. The winners look healthy enough, but maybe they’re masking an inner trauma. Anyway, you’ll win, then Isabelle Southcott will put your photo in Powell River Living and before you know it everyone in town will be coming up to you in Safeway, to congratulate you. Before you know it, you’ll be a living legend. A fate worse than death.
6. You’ll never listen to another TV or radio broadcast in quite the same way again. You’ll start off noticing all the um’s and ah’s of people you formerly respected. You’ll wonder how your favourite actors got to be such big stars when they can barely complete a sentence in an interview. At the same time, you’ll start feeling a grudging admiration for people you don’t even like, just because they speak intelligently. Really, it’s far better that television-watching remain a mindless, passive activity.
7. You’ll start annoying your friends with all the impressive words you’re using, words like tyro and otiose. When a friend starts searching for the perfect word to capture how she’s feeling, the one who provides it will—alas—be you. Think of the pressure ! People will start turning to you expectantly, waiting for pearls of wisdom to drop out of your mouth. When a friend has a problem with their kid, you’ll be quoting Harry Truman, who once said that “the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.” Money troubles? You may be tempted to quote Dorothy Parker, who once said: “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.” In such situations, it’s far better to say something mundane and dopey. You won’t stick out that way.
8. You’ll find yourself being drawn into other people’s obscure hobbies and odd obsessions. I once sat through a speech on ancient music instruments. Ever since then I’ve been toying with the idea of joining the Society for Creative Anachronism, in the hope of getting some lute lessons. Thanks to Toastmaster Barb, I now know where Tuktyuktuk is. How useful is that? And then my husband got wind of it and wants to go there!
9. It will destroy travel for you. Everyone else on the bus will be off to see the changing of the guard in London, but not you. Nope! You’ll be in a church basement somewhere surrounded by a bunch of Brits who are fascinated by your accent. You’ll start planning your itinerary based on the location of Toastmasters meetings. And unluckily for you, there’s hardly a country where you won’t find one. You also run the risk of meeting people from all over the world who’ll take to you like a long-lost brother or sister. You’ll probably be invited to dinner in a real Japanese or Brazilian home. Come to think of it, it’s far better to stay in a western hotel and eat pizza. You don’t want to run the risk of running into the locals.
10. You’ll acquire a host of new friends, who’ll quickly become important people in your life. Thanks to Toastmasters, I now know dozens of people I can call late at night to ask for support when I’m thinking of trying something new. Far better that you spend your nights alone, just you and the tv and a plate of flaky pastries. Forget all about that group of new friends, ready and able to provide the warm supportive atmosphere we need to reach our goals. Who wants to reach for the sky anyway?
So there you are: 10 good reasons not to join. If you’re smart, you’ll decide never to darken the door of a Toastmasters meeting. But if you do decide to join, tell them Susan sent you…
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