In all my years of teaching, training, and public speaking, Toastmasters has always been a group that I avoided.  I don’t know if it was because of my history with public speaking and feeling that I couldn’t do it well. Or that I couldn’t just get up and talk without having thought it out thoroughly and completely, practicing it over and over again until it was “perfect.”  Maybe it was because the “big” commitment felt troubling.  I am not really sure.

One explanation could be some of my past experiences in committing to organizations that, particularly because of my propensity to get into leadership roles, I allowed myself to suck up my time and energy that outweighed the benefits. Perhaps you can relate?

Since then I’d vowed to become much more discerning about whom and for how long I spend my time, which has meant that I avoided joining almost anything.

Then Toastmasters called.

My big audacious goal for this year is to build a professional speaking practice.  I engaged a coach who is bringing the world of keynote and corporate speaking to life, and her guidance has been invaluable.  I’ve been out there applying for conferences and conventions and proposing to corporate entities.  Yet I began to feel there were some missing pieces that I needed in order to really propel forward.

One day I received a call from a very dear friend and colleague who once had been my speaker coach.  She shared that she was opening a new Toastmasters club named Oakland Leaders.  The target audience was leaders in Oakland public and private offices.  She wanted me as a member as I had the leadership piece these folks so needed.  I said ‘yes’ and soon realized what a great decision this was going to be.

A program called Speechcraft drew me into their world.  I was a “demo” speaker.  In other words, I did the planned speech first so that others could do it the following week.  I was jazzed.  Then I discovered Pathways, their educational tracks of which there are 11 with over 300 projects.  I’m in heaven and on an ever-increasing time commitment.

And then there’s the former competitive swimmer part of me, although now I am inspired and motivated to compete only with myself, to become better and better at speaking. Toastmasters keeps me reaching for the prize, which I get, and then there is another level, another contest, another club at which to speak, another TV show to be on, and another level of leadership to achieve. 

I am taking this one step at a time. I have met some absolutely stupendous individuals on my journey so far. I have been involved in many fun, challenging, and inspiring events. 

The missing pieces have been filled: I get regular practice and accountability, support from their excellent programs, a great community to share and to learn from. And it feeds my desire to be on stage – a lot. 

There are a few morals to this story to impart:

  1. Never say ‘never.’  More specifically, there are many good organizations out there to support your professional development. Before you jump in, be discerning about what you need at the particular moment in your growth, how the group can help fill that need, and what you are willing and able to commit to doing. Once you join, take it a step at a time (instead of instantly all-in like I was prone to do!).
  2. I have been in front of audiences speaking and training for a very long time. The speaking coach and Toastmasters experiences remind me that my learning is lifelong. There are new platforms and opportunities to explore, new (digital) ways to connect to those opportunities. And, people who come into your life at the perfect time to teach you and to allow you to teach them.
  3. Public speaking is like a muscle that can be exercised or left to atrophy. Keep at it and say ‘yes’ to the right opportunities to step up, step out, step into your leadership.

So, today I am following this mantra: Relax – Enjoy the Ride!! Stay tuned for the next chapter…

Linda Patten is a Leadership Trainer for women entrepreneurs and change-makers. Her vision for every woman is to become the natural leader she is meant to be, through teaching an empowering mindset, masculine AND feminine leadership skills, and how to activate a vision into a full-bodied business or social change movement.

For opportunities to awaken and empower the leader within you, please visit Dare2LeadwithLinda.