Stockholm Int’l Toastmasters Educational – Keeping the Promise

An educational I delivered two weeks ago, for posterity:

Good evening fellow toastmasters and honoured guests. When each of us first joined Toastmasters we were asked to fill in a form. Apart from guaranteeing that your first born child would also join Toastmasters, the standard Toastmasters application form contains the Toastmasters’ promise’ which you can also find in your Competent Communicators manual.

Today I’d like to go through that promise, and why keeping it is important to get the most out of Toastmasters.

The promise really itself consists of 10 promises, though for today’s speech I’ve cut them down to a more manageable 7. These 7 promises can be broadly categorised to Promises to Yourself, Promises to your fellow members and Promises to the club.

Let’s start with the promises to yourself. As winter dawns and attendance start heading south, it’s a good time to think about what you’re here for, and what being here actually means. Why did you join Toastmasters? Was it to improve public speaking? Was it to think better on your feet? Or was it a way to meet new people?

Whatever the reason, they all share one thing in common, you can’t do any of them staying at home. That’s the first promise to yourself, to attend regularly. There is no such thing as a Toastmasters’ correspondence course, for good reason.

It’s not like we will hunt you down each time you miss a meeting, but at the end of the day you’re only going to get out how much you put in. If you only come once a year, it’s going to be a very expensive meeting with not much learning. If you come every fortnight, you’re going to get alot more. Attending regularly is the prerequisite to any kind of change you wanted to get out of coming.

Turning up is just one part of the story. Speaking, evaluating, thinking on your feet are all as much physical activities as they are mental ones. How many of you here know how to swim. How many of you learned how to swim sitting at the side of a pool or lake and watching other people swim? Just like swimming, getting better at those skills requires time and practice.

Each meeting is an opportunity for airtime, an opportunity to improve yourself. So sign up for speech projects, meeting roles and volunteering for table topics to make it worth your while. Remember, you only get out what you put in. Even if you don’t have a role or speech, being at the pool and studying the technique of swimmers there is still much better than staying at home if you’re serious about swiming. Participate actively, that is your second promise.

I won’t lie to you, working through projects in your manuals is no walk in the park. They are written to build out the basics and move on to more complicated projects to target a wide variety of skills. This means you’re going to work on some areas you may not like or be comfortable with, like humour. And that is a good thing! When we don’t like something, more often than not we’re pretty bad at it, so being forced to work on it helps us improve.

Sure, there are some people who seem to do these effortlessly. They just walk in and make up an entire speech project on the spot and deliver it flawlessly. If you are one of these people, Roseline would like to talk to you about our next table topics competition. For the vast majority of us, a good speech requires good preparation. If you’re asked to do a speech or role, bring your A-Game, put your best foot forward because it means the feedback you receive will be about your true ability, not about your lack of preparation. Prepare for your role to the best of your ability, that is your third promise.

Promises to yourself – Attend regularly, participate actively and do a kick ass job. simple!

The next set of promises is to your fellow toastmasters around the room. No man is an island, and the club exists only because there are other like-minded people who have come together. Just like you, they’ve dragged themselves out of bed and braved this horrid weather to turn up.

I put it to you that the best thing you can do for your fellow toastmaster when they’ve taken the effort to prepare and deliver a kick-ass speech, is to find ways to make them more awesome, to turn their A-game into an A+ game. Just like speeches, the best evaluations have planning; coming up with ways to up the level of awesomeness is hard enough, you also need to figure out how to deliver it so it sticks. What can you say to make sure the next time they come back on stage, they’re a better speaker?

It is not a task unique to toastmasters. We are often asked to assess our peers and give them feedback at appraisals or interviews. Those same skills, giving constructive feedback to effect change and improvement, are in play when taking on various evaluation roles. Like other parts of toastmasters, it requires time and practice, and we should strive to deliver the best feedback we can. That is your fouth promise – Prepare and deliver effective feedback to help your fellow toastmasters improve.
And sometimes honest feedback hurts. You put your heart and soul into a speech, only to hear “you need to improve on this, this, this” and it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, that we’re all here to learn and grow. Next time you’ll be thinking “I put in all that effort only to get cut down, they’re pretty harsh.” It’s not that we’re all fragile snowflakes, we’re not machines, and encouragement helps. If someone’s done a good job, say it. If someone’s taken the plunge and done their first icebreaker, congratulate them on it. That’s your fifth promise – keeping the club a positive and friendly environment for your fellow toastmasters to learn and grow.

Speaking of friendly environments, if you remember nothing from this speech at all, remember this. after the meeting here a few of us often have dinner and drinks at Vurma’s, a minute’s walk away from the club. It’s a great way to relax and unwind and get to know your fellow club members a little better since we run our meetings tight and there isn’t that much mingle time. Personally I think it’s a great outcome if you not only come in and learn something from the club, but leave with friends you can keep for life! On the topic of feedback, it’s also much easier to deliver and receive honest feedback to someone you know well.

Spiel aside, those are your promises to your fellow toastmasters – Deliver effective feedback and keep the club a place we can all learn, grow and have fun.
we’ve come to the last set of promises, the higher purpose if you will. The promise to your club and the toastmasters organisation. We can be here having a meeting thanks to the tireless efforts of our club officers and those that have come before us to shape Toastmasters as an organisation.

If you’ve gotten something out of Toastmasters, there is a really simple way to give back; when you are called upon to serve as a club officer, rise to the occasion. Clubs don’t run on air, they need warm bodies, people to make sure things run smoothly, that we have a roof over our heads, people to make the decisions when needed.

It’s worth remembering that something like this doesn’t happen by accident. How do you create an environment where ongoing change can be fostered and learnt? By serving as an officer, you get a front row seat into the challenges and solutions in such an enterprise. You work more closely with people who have been there and done that, and gain access to their wealth of experience. Just like speech-making and evaluation, learning to lead takes time and practice; the better you get at it, the stronger the club becomes. Your sixth promise to the club – Answer the call of duty when asked to serve in your club.

There is another way to give back to the club that not only helps you grow, but helps someone else to grow too! As time goes on, and we all move on in life, members will leave the club. Which is a slight problem since a club needs members to function.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a constant stream of new people coming in, so we can continue helping members achieve their goals in the years to come, ensuring that the benefits of the Toastmasters program can be shared by as many people as possible. Your last promise – to bring along guests to the club and spread the word!

So there’s my interpretation of the toastmaster’s promise, with a liberal exercise of an artistic license.

The toastmasters promise is
It’s a promise to yourself – attend regularly, participate actively and do a kick ass job
It’s a promise to your fellow toastmasters – deliver effective feedback, keep the club an awesome place to learn and have fun
It’s a promise to your club – answer the call of duty and spread the word of toastmasters

I hope it has given you something to think about what it means to be a Toastmaster. It’s an amazing place to be and I have never once regretted making that promise. Thank you for your time, and remember that there’s dinner and drinks after this.

Thank you.

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