Twenty years ago, I was challenged to go to a Toastmasters meeting by Mark, my friend and a quality assurance engineer at the company I was working for. He told me that he loved my ideas but that I was not good at presenting them. I honestly was a little hurt by his feedback (even though it was a gift that changed my life). I justified myself to him that I played in a rock band and had no problem getting up in front of a group of people, but truth be told, I was very afraid. I was bad at talking without a guitar in my hand.
Going back to a 5th grade play, I froze on stage. There I was in front of a cafeteria full of students and parents and could only mumble the few lines I had to read. And, that was after Jenny and Derrik nailed their lines. In 6th grade, the teacher wouldn’t even let me on stage. I was backstage pulling curtain strings and making sounds, and honestly, I was okay with it.
Is it easy to learn to communicate effectively? Yes, it kind of is. Does it take away the fear of getting up in front of people? No, not really. To this day, I still get that nervous feeling when I get up in front of a crowd, but it quickly turns into positive energy because I have now learned how to harness that energy when speaking.
There is a great book called Change or Die (read it), and it explains three simple rules to follow when wanting to change. relate, repeat, and reframe. If you want to be a better communicator, Toastmasters is exactly this. Relate: you are surrounded by people who are wanting the same thing you want and going through the same journey with you. Repeat: you get a chance every meeting to talk, whether that is weekly or every other week. Reframe: you get feedback when you speak to improve what you did.
In summary, I encourage anyone and everyone to become a toastmaster, because our world is about communication.