why the creative community needs Toastmasters

I’m sure many of us have been at a book launch, poetry reading, or art show where despite the fact that we were proud of the creativity of the author or artist and could identity with their work, we felt badly for them because they were having difficulty  “connecting” with their audience. This is often because creative people are introverts, and have difficulty standing up in front of a group and “putting themselves out there.”

That’s why I love Toastmasters, an international organization whose mandate is to help people from any and every background improve their public speaking, presentation, listening, and leadership skills.

I joined Toastmasters back in 2001, not because I was shy and was looking to gain confidence, but rather, because I knew that you could never get too good at public speaking and that I had much to learn to take my speaking abilities to the next level. As a writer and author, I knew it was becoming a part of my professional package of skills and services to be ready and able to make presentations on various subjects when asked, and that those presentations could earn me additional income and help me sell books.

As a feng shui enthusiast and someone who has written dozens of articles on the subject, I have given a series of feng shui presentations on cruiseships. As someone who sat on a national board whose focus is copyright, I have given several presentations on copyright. As someone who wrote a book about volunteerism, I have given numerous presentations about how to be a better volunteer. As a professional writer, I have given workshops to aspiring writers who would like to earn a living from their craft. And as a writer who focuses on travel writing, I have given presentations on how to market and sell articles with various takes on travel such as the presentation I am giving on September 22nd in Saskatoon at the Connect, Celebrate, and Collaborate conference being sponsored by the Professional Writers Association of Canada and Tourism Saskatchewan.

If you have any form of expertise you may be qualified to promote yourself as a workshop presenter, a keynote speaker, or a panelist at a conference. I know many speakers who earn a very healthy living from making presentations. I’ve not yet made my way to the top of the heap of coveted presenters, but I do generally charge in the area of $1,000 (plus expenses and developmental costs if applicable) for a one-day workshop and making presentations now forms a significant portion of my income stream.

So you’ve got the expertise to give workshops or presentations. But do you have the public speaking abilities? That’s where Toastmasters can really help. If you’ve found that any of these scenarios fit your situation, Toastmasters can and will help you:

  • you are increasingly being asked to speak publicly on any given topic
  • you want to run for public office or a position on a board
  • you want to be able to promote your writing, art, photography, or other creative endeavour at public events
  • you want to develop an income stream from giving workshops and making presentations
  • you are likely to be asked to be an MC at a wedding, give a toast to the bride or groom, give a eulogy at a funeral
  • you are involved in interpersonal communications as part of your job.

These are all situations where Toastmasters can help you, and if you happen to live in the South Interlake region of Manitoba, I’d like to invite you to join us at the new Irish Otter Coffee House in the Winnipeg Beach Plaza on September 28th at 2 pm for the Kick-Off meeting of the new Toastmasters in the Arts club. We’d love to meet you and help you become a better communicator in a fun and informal setting.

If you don’t live in the area but have benefitted from Toastmasters, please tell us about it. If you’ve been considering joining Toastmasters but have any doubts, I hope I’ve expelled them. And if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

40 Responses

  1. wendy merron says:

    Toastmasters is an awesome group! I joined our local group in Berwyn, PA a year ago. While I have absolutely no more fears about speaking, my goal is to improve my presentation skills.

    (My business partner is the President of our local Toastmasters and we created an online downloadable program to help Toastmasters get over their fears about speaking.)

    The truth is, once those fears are gone, it’s much easier and much more fun to improve our speaking skills.

    Last month we held a humorous story contest. I entered and won! Now I have to go up a level and share my story to even more people tomorrow night!

    Here’s my motto that helps me to do (almost) anything:

    THERE IS NO FAILURE, ONLY FEEDBACK.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your great comment, Wendy, and welcome to the blog! I believe it’s your first visit here.

      Glad to hear you’re in the TM program and enjoying it. And congrats on winning your club’s humorous speech contest. Good luck in the Area contest.

      You’re right about the public speaking process. Once you look at it as a learning process, it definitely does become fun. I love it!

  2. Linda says:

    You are a sharp and forward thinking writer and promoter. This is great advice for us shy writerley types. I might add that I once went to a workshop designed to help people read their own work. One might assume that the author is best suited to read their own material, but as this lecturer pointed out, writers are rarely actors and reading dynamically requires an actor’s understanding of timing, of emphasis, and of drama. He had each of us read something of our own. Then he read the same piece, demonstrating how different it sounded. And THEN, he worked with us individually on our own pieces, helping us to identify key words that need space, or inflection. It was fascinating.
    Linda recently posted…An eye for an eye will make us all blindMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      That’s a cool idea for a workshop, Linda. Thanks for sharing.

      Maybe we’ll be able to work something along this lines into our new club’s TM program. I like it!

      Thanks again for your tremendous support of this blog.

  3. Catarina says:

    Good suggestion Doreen. Not least for introverts who find it difficult to speak publicly.

    By the way, if you haven’t, do read Aristotle’s Rhetoric written ca 365 B.C. His ideas inspired Cicero and Caesar to become some of the best public speakers who have ever lived.

  4. Jeff Stern says:

    Doreen, great post thanks. I attended TM as well to learn to be a better communicator. I found the environment very supportive and positive. As Wendy Merron put it so well….”There is no failure”as the participants are all in the same boat, trying to improve themselves and the feedback is always constructive. Thanks so much for your terrific subjects you blog about.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thank YOU, Jeff, for being such a supportive friend. So glad you’re enjoying (and participating in) the discussions we have here on the blog.

      Yes, in it’s correct form, Toastmasters is supposed to be supportive and positive and for the most part, it attracts really positive people. I have, on rare occasion, encountered Toastmasters who have a negative streak in them, but fortunately, they are few and far between and fortunately, they often move on to something else.

  5. Margaret Anne Fehr says:

    I procrastinated for years about joining a public speaking group and I realize how my reluctance to speak in front of groups has really cost me dearly through avoidance or hanging back in situations that called for greater visibility. When I did finally sign up with ITC (formerly Toastmistress), it was because I was just so fed up with all the times it affected my advancement or simply reaching out to people to share an experience that might be of benefit to someone else.
    I’ve not been part of a Toastmasters group in a number of years and I’ve noticed that I’m starting to regress which makes me think that communication and public speaking skills are really like a muscle; you must continue to flex it, otherwise, the writers’ ‘shrinking violet’ gene seems to take over. I’ve recently moved to a new community, Milton, Ontario just a couple of weeks ago and realize I’ve got to get back into the game. Have already located a local TM group and want to make it one of my first points of contact here.
    Let me know about the TM for Artists. Sounds like a wonderful format, Doreen. Much success with all that you’ve taken on!

  6. WizardOfWords says:

    Wonderful to hear from you, Margaret, and so glad to hear you’re settled into your new community and have already found a TM group! I’m sure you’ll love it. And remember, each Toastmasters club has its own distinct personality. If you try one and it’s not quite the right fit, try another!

    And yes, I think the “Toastmasters in the Arts” concept can be applied to any community or region with a high % of creative people. Keep me posted!

  7. I totally agree. Another PWAC member here got me involved with a club. I love it because it’s one hour at lunch once a week and gets me out of my office, but also motivated and inspired by others.

    I have gained a lot of confidence when it comes to public speaking. In fact, I’ve been asked/hired to speak to groups and organizations on many topics, particularly related to writing. And I really love doing it.

    I totally agree that all writers should do this. Even if you’re comfortable speaking, as Doreen said, you can never have too much learning. Good public speaking is truly an art. Thanks for talking about this insightful topic!
    Suzanne Boles recently posted…BlogMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks so much for joining the discussion, Suzanne. I’m really glad you’re enjoying your TM club in London, ON. I know I’ve been talking up TM for years and don’t know anyone who’s tried it and didn’t like it.

      The unfortunate thing is when someone joins for a year and then leaves, thinking they’ve gained enough for their purposes. It may be true that they’ve improved their speaking abilities from what they were, but as Margaret said in her comment, you can quickly lose those skills if you don’t use and sharpen them on an ongoing basis.

  8. A.K.Andrew says:

    What a great post Doreen. I first heard of Toastmasters from my niece and she loved it. It never occurred to me to join myself in terms of promoting my writing, but hopefully there will come a time when that’s necessary. I’m much better at public speaking than I used to be, but my skills could definitely be improved.
    And I loved how you have shared all the workshops you’ve run and are encouraging others to do the same. I also appreciate your openness in terms of the fees – it certainly makes it attractive. As we move through the different phases of our lives , we don’t always recognize the skills we’ve picked up along the way, and how much, as creative people we do know.
    This is a truly inspiring post. Thank you so much.
    A.K.Andrew recently posted…5 Reasons to Focus on the Visual Content of PinterestMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, A.K. I’m really glad you enjoyed the post, and that you as an author and artist, now see the value in joining TM.

      As you know from being a long-time reader of this blog, I always try to be as frank as possible, and feel that sharing specifics (as opposed to speaking in vague, abstract terms) is of much more value to the readers. I recommend the blog of fellow author, Arthur Slade, which you’ll find listed in my blogroll in the column to the right.

  9. Harry Hobbs says:

    A great post Doreen and as a committed Toastmaster what more can I say. Wish I was close enough to be an active member of your new club. It does sound exciting.

    As I get more advanced in my speaking I really see an amazing carry over from public speaking to writing that I wasn’t fully aware of before. Studying the greats in our field like Darren Lacroix and Craig Valentine have brought this into focus. They speak about using dialogue and character development that have helped me go back and look at the fiction I’m writing to make sure I’m on task.

    This is a different spin on how Toastmasters helps a writer but it is often overlooked.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Harry, and for being a regular visitor to this blog. It’s great having you here … all the way from Flin Flon! It would indeed be great if you lived closer and could join the new club as I think you’d really enjoy it. I’m looking forward to see who will turn up for the Kick-Off meeting!

      Interesting how the art of speaking has in turn, helped advance the skills of your writing. Very interesting.

  10. Susan Cooper says:

    I had never really thought about joining Toastmasters, but you have made some very good points. I could always gain much from that kind of association, and who knows, I might actually present something about “How To Draw On My iPad” some day. 🙂

    I would love to come but alas I am much too far away. That said we do need to figure out an a meet-up sometime, don’t you think?
    Susan Cooper recently posted…An Assumption, a Dog & A Rabbit: StoryMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      I bet you’d love Toastmasters, Susan, as you are obviously a people person with a good knack for communicating. That’s the kind of people you most often find at TM.

      Yes, hopefully, I’ll get myself down to your neck of the woods in the next year to launch my chocolate book. Stay tuned! It would be terrific to share some wine and chocolate with you. 🙂

  11. Jeri says:

    Despite years of teaching experience, the thought of speaking in public still terrifies me. The classroom and the public sphere really are quite different and the one never really transferred to the other for me. I suppose if I’m to face my fears, Toastmasters really should be at the top of my list. Thanks for putting the idea back at the top of my “to conquer” list.
    Jeri recently posted…JeriWB Writes: Lost Girl Road Update #5My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jeri.

      Surprisingly, we have lots of retired teachers in Toastmasters. It seems they like to be at the front of a room talking at a group of people! 🙂

      You really should look into TM now, before your book comes out, as it will make book launches and signings MUCH easier and much more fun for you. Go for it!

  12. Bindhurani says:

    You always give valuable information. always a nice read. It is nice to know about Toastmasters

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks, Bindhurani. Toastmasters can be of value to almost anyone and it’s present in virtually every part of the world. You might like to check it out!

  13. I recommend Toastmasters in the instructional material for my “Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz” online course. Each local group has its own personality, so you might have to check out a couple before you find the right one for you.

    Sandra Beckwith
    Sandra Beckwiith recently posted…Pinterest for books: Is it for you?My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Right on, Sandra. Each Toastmasters club has a very distinct personality and the key is to find the right one for one’s individual needs and to serve one’s professional aspirations. Glad to hear you recommend TM in your publicity book. You’re right on target.

      Thanks for joining the blog. It’s always great hearing from you.

  14. Wow – Toastmasters! I definitely need more practice when it comes to speaking to crowds of people. As an up-coming memoir/inspirational author, that will be an immense priority for me. In fact, having additional skills when it comes to networking is key for any author!

    Thanks for this awesome post, Doreen – I’m so glad to have met you yesterday! 🙂
    Jeff Emmerson recently posted…Overcoming Challenges: Taking Your Life Back Isn’t EasyMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jeff, and for visiting the blog. We have some amazing conversations here!

      Yes, Toastmasters is definitely something EVERY author and creative person should look into at some time in their careers. It’s not just educational and helpful, it’s fun!

  15. Patrick Huff says:

    Thank for introducing me to Toastmasters. I will be sure to look into it as I really want to get involved in public presentations as well as you tube videos.
    Patrick Huff recently posted…Tempering The Heat – Pairing Beer With Spicy FoodsMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Patrick. I guarantee you’ll love Toastmasters if you find the right club. Let me know how you make out. And you’re right! TM training will help anyone doing you tube videos. I never thought of that!

  16. WizardOfWords says:

    An update: We had our “Kick-Off” meeting for the Toastmasters in the Arts club yesterday in Winnipeg Beach. It went very well and was encouraging to see writers and artists gather for the common purpose of improving their public speaking and presentation skills. This is a concept that can be adapted in any area where there is a high concentration of creative individuals involved in artistic endeavours.

  17. RussMcDevitt says:

    I saw Doreen do her thing at an informational meeting for a proposed Toastmaster’s Club in Winnipeg Beach.
    It must have terrific potential with all those ‘Arty’ types around, though one who was there confessed to a lack of confidence in actually promoting her stuff. That’s probably why the club would be very useful. I was in TM years ago in the Black Forest club in Germany and Dublin Ireland. I need to regenerate those old skills! Thanks Doreen!
    RussMcDevitt

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Yay, Russ! I know you’ll be a great asset to the Toastmasters in the Arts club.

      And you’re so right in that your public speaking skills can get very rusty if you don’t keep them sharp by continuing to grow as a Toastmaster. After 11 years, I still haven’t had enough!

      See you at our next meeting.

  18. Friday afternoon, in an unfinished coffee house on the shores of Lake Winnipeg was not the typical place for a group of writers, painters, sketchers and others who are in the arts, to come together for a Toastmasters meeting. Although, if truth were known, there is no typical place for a Toastmasters meeting.
    There are meetings around the world in 115 countries serving over 280,000 members so if you can picture a scene, there is a likely a Toastmasters group meeting there. In our own area (Manitoba and North-Western Ontario) we have clubs that meet every day except Sunday, in locations that range from church basements to the 31st floor of our tallest building, speaking to groups of newcomers to the community (Start Speaking), to those wanting to know more about Robert’s Rules of Order (Parliamentary Toastmasters), to those serving the needs of small communities (Flin Flon Toastmasters), and now a club dedicated to the Arts Community based in Gimli, Manitoba.
    There is even a club that is internet-based from Perth, Australia called NetMasters. I was privileged to “attend” one of their meetings.
    Picture this: it was 7:00 am in Manitoba, noon in South Africa and 7:00 pm in Perth, when 12 energetic Toastmasters got together to share news, stories, fun and energy from around the world. Through the magic of the “Go To Meeting” internet program, we were able to see each other, and take part just as if we were in the same room, rather than thousands of miles away. The stories that were shared were magical: What it is like to be a person of mixed race in South Africa and how the change of regime affected her status from white, to black, to coloured including a time when she had no status at all. We came away appreciating our own life; we heard from Peter Law, who was the District representative at the semi-finals of World Championship of Public Speaking being held at the Toastmasters International Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida. He spoke about “Time is a Gift” and shared stories about a friend who had cancer and the benefits of treating the gift of time with energy and passion. The meeting included feedback, impromptu speaking and a lot of humour. Just like a regular Toastmasters meeting.
    I can almost see the future: through the wonder of the internet, people with common interests can join clubs around the world to share their unique perspective. Just set up your computer or TV screen with the appropriate software, assemble interested people and start sharing your stories! Learn how to make them better, evaluate each other to encourage and support, and practice different ways to make your talent shine!
    Our District 64 Governor, Bev Doern DTM often says: “Taking on a new challenge should create a sense of excitement within you – along with an equal amount of queasiness. That sense of apprehension or queasiness is what tells you that you are pushing against the limits of your comfort zone and you will grow in the experience.”
    What challenge would you like to take today?
    .

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks again for coming out to the launch of the Toastmasters in the Arts meeting, Dorian. You definitely added to the positive energy in the room.

      What a cool idea about participating in a TM meeting on the other side of the world via Skype or other software. So cool! There are so many options with Toastmasters, and TM brings many unexpected opportunities our way that enhance our personal and professional lives.

      We’ll look forward to welcoming you back in the Interlake when TIA has our charter party!

  19. Andy says:

    I have been thinking about joining an organisation such as Toastmasters for a while but as usual never got around to doing it. However, I have a wedding coming up and an important presentation at work so this sort of practice could really help. Thankyou for the article, I will go and check Toastmasters out again!
    Andy recently posted…Improve Your Public Speaking SkillsMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      That’s great, Andy. I really believe in the value of Toastmasters.

      One of my TM colleagues said this terrific quote that I keep repeating: “There are only 2 kinds of people. Those who are Toastmasters, and those who should be.” Words to live by from Ardythe Basham, District 64 Toastmasters

  20. Toastmaster is really helpful for everyone,that’s a great post written by you.

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks so much! Yes, I’m a firm believer that Toastmasters can and does help everyone who gives it a try. And once we acquire a certain level of skills, we can certainly help and mentor others who are learning. TM has a great mentorship program and has certainly helped many.

      My challenge has been getting the word out to the artistic community – which is comprised of many who are recluse, introverted, and unaware as to how much TM can help them – if they’d only give it a try.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…independent publishing enables the author to shine My Profile

  21. Val Russo says:

    Great Article , Always good to get advice from smart people.
    Val Russo recently posted…Maid of Honor Wedding SpeechesMy Profile

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