Many of the topics previously covered in this section require skills in the art of speaking and for many, it is not a skill that comes naturally. Practise is required at every stage of the journey to make it to the bright lights of a theatre or behind a microphone to broadcast your own podcast. The real question where can you go to practise how to speak and develop your skills and confidence? That is where Toastmasters comes into play. The art of speaking is often one that can be overlooked but even to the most extroverted person out there, Toastmasters has amazing benefits to offer to those who join.
Although Toastmasters at its core is a club that teaches public speaking and leadership skills, each person has their own reasons for joining a club. It provides education as well as personal awareness about your own speech patterns and phrases in a peer to peer review setting. It is not a space for judgement but rather encouragement and fulfilment in your own personal journey to master speaking to people, be that to one person or a room full of people. In hindsight, joining my own local Toastmasters club was one of the best decisions I have made in a while. For the most part I knew I could talk to people, but I wanted to learn how to speak and not long after joining I learned that there is a big difference between the two concepts. I watched in awe as people stood up to perform both planned and impromptu speeches and listened as their words melded together in an almost lyrical fashion.
Any Toastmasters meeting is structured around different types of speaking to encourage engagement in all forms of the art. From on the spot two-minute speeches in the Topics Master section to the planned and rehearsed speeches of members who are on the various speech pathways in the Toastmasters program. Since Toastmasters is a global brand there are plenty of resources online to guide members in their journey of mastering speech. Cork has its own Toastmasters club and they are based in The Kingsley Hotel on the Carrigrohane Road. Established in 1967, the Cork club holds the title of the first Toastmasters club founded in Ireland outside of Dublin. The long history of Toastmasters in Cork is testament to the innate love of the arts and artistic expression that is palpable within the city. The freedom of artistic expression that Toastmasters offers to members is one of the most rewarding values of becoming involved with your local club. Speech topics range from introducing yourself to the group to an in-depth research question of your choice. It allows you to put your own interests at the very centre of your speeches, turning them into something that you enjoy writing and speaking about but more importantly something that you can put your own flair and passion into so the speech is unique to you. Toastmasters allows you to bring your own views of your subject to a waiting audience, and when sitting in the audience speeches serve as an education in topics you might not have considered beforehand.
Despite the educational value in an initiative like Toastmasters there is also a wonderful social aspect to it as well. Being part of a Toastmasters community allows you to learn from others but also to meet people from all walks of life and the potential to find lifelong friends. Since joining Toastmasters four months ago, I can see how the skills that I have learned in the club have had positive effects in my day to day life. Creativity, quick thinking and a stronger bank of vocabulary are just a few of the benefits that I have seen myself develop so far on the back of Toastmasters.
The art of speaking is a valuable skill to practice and master, and regardless of what stage you are at on your journey there is a space for you at Toastmasters. The social ethos of the group makes it an enjoyable learning environment where you can stretch your imagination across multiple concepts and learn to engage an audience with a compelling speech.