“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” ~ Jerry Seinfeld
I remember the day when I realized I needed to develop my presentation skills. I was sitting in my manager’s office. We were discussing my career development. We both knew Nike is a great place to tell stories and communicate your ideas. My manager shared a PowerPoint slide that outlined about the areas to cover to get people interested in your idea. Later that day, I did a Google search for public speaking in Portland. I found Toastmasters. I shared this idea with my family and manager and they looked at me strangely. Many of us are unfamiliar with the value of Toastmasters.
Like most everyone else, I didn’t enjoy public speaking in High School. It made me feel uncomfortable. I attributed my lack of communication skills to other problems in my life. I thought, it’s simply not who I am. The truth is, everyone can learn competent communication.
I went to a Toastmasters on the north side of Portland. I really enjoyed the atmosphere. I was a welcomed guest. My favorite aspect was the supportive environment. I had a trouble with anxiety and I was extremely nervous, but the members made it a friendly environment. They even shared information about other Toastmaster clubs in Portland. I thought this was a great idea. I started searching for clubs on the west side of town and found a club at Nike campus.
The club is called Sporty Speakers. It is a great culture with diverse talent and I felt welcome. A few months later, the president of the club asked me if I was interested in becoming President. I felt honored she saw potential in me. I was excited for the role and became more engaged. I started giving speeches more often. I was excited to serve other members and guests. I also really enjoyed contributing to bi-annual competitions. I started to notice personal growth in communication and leadership. Recently, I had the opportunity to present at an Technology all-hands meeting. I was filled with jubilance. A year earlier, I would have ran from this opportunity.
During this journey I have become inspired by the ideas shared at Toastmasters. More importantly, I have met inspiring people. Rohit Malshe joined the club six months prior to me. He attends every single week. I have been inspired by his commitment and intelligence. He has always been ahead of me and keeps going every single week. He would tell stories how it became easier preparing a speech. It took me several weeks to write a speech and weeks to practice it. Soon, I was able to reduce it to a week. Before long, I could deliver a competent message in the “hot seat”. This process developed our imagination.
I got to know Rohit by listening to his topics for a year. I realized we had a lot in common. Then we started to become friends. One of my natural talents is Human Capital. I started asking him questions about his interests. It turns out we are both really interested in Data Science. I began thinking of starting a specialized club to inspire more like us. I asked Rohit if he was interested in starting a club. We started our club as an experiment. We both wanted to share free knowledge to others and hope they would be inspired to share their knowledge. We started an informal meetup. I have been extremely impressed with Rohit’s ability to present in Data Science. In fact, I have been inspired to continue learning in this topic. However, we have learned it has been difficult to get people involved because of our extremely specialized field and getting others involved. I believe Rohit is a true leader and he can take this club to the next level. Involvement is the key to keep people inspired and sharing. The quality comes from everyone sharing. This is what kept us returning to Toastmasters every week. The format of Toastmasters get’s everyone involved.
After serving a club president, one of the natural progressions is becoming an area director. After becoming an Area Director, the next progression is sponsoring a new club. I am now in the learning process to sponsor a club. I’m inspired by the idea of a specialized club because it develops a community. I found a perfect location in an area with many technology experts that I know would desire to develop their communication of ideas. Currently, we have twelve attending our Data Science Club. I believe if we expand it to STEM Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, we will be able to attract enough members to attain success. We need at least twenty members to Charter as a Toastmaster club.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood, and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Our club mission can “Inspire each other by sharing similar values, helping you effectively communicate your ideas.”