Spring is the season of growth. I get excited every time I see new leaves on trees and daffodils in the stores. When I lived on the East Coast, I burst with joy every spring when I saw hyacinths, irises, and tulips slowly peeking out of the damp earth in my front yard.
Spring is a chance for us to grow as well. Three years ago, I wanted to grow as a communicator and leader, as well as flex my volunteering and networking muscles. Plus, I wanted all this value in one place that was accessible, supportive, fun, and inexpensive. I’m glad I discovered Toastmasters, because it met all these criteria!
One of the best ways to see value in Toastmasters is to get involved with speech contests. These now happen once a year and provide many opportunities for personal and professional growth in a safe, supportive environment. To summarize, I’ve found that being active with speech contests has helped me grow in five ways and bring V-A-L-U-E to my personal and professional life:
1. Volunteer Experience
Volunteering for a speech contest provides immense value on a personal and professional level. Many volunteers are needed to run a successful speech contest. At the club level, about 10 volunteers are needed, and at the area and division levels, nearly 20 volunteers are necessary because of size and complexity. Volunteering for a speech contest helps you develop your organization, communication, and time management skills.
2. Active Speaking and Listening
All members have the opportunity to participate in their club’s speech contests, then potentially advance to the area, division, and district levels. These contests are designed to give everyone a chance to speak and compete, regardless of the ability or Toastmasters level. You can be an active speaker by competing in these contests or an active listener by simply attending.
3. Leadership Development
Speech contests provide many opportunities to lead. You can lead a small group or the entire contest. It’s up to you! For example, the Chief Judge is responsible for recruiting and communicating with judges, timers and ballot counters. Opportunities exist, just waiting for members to take advantage of them. Toastmasters is all about mentoring the next group of leaders to organize future contests.
4. Unparalleled Networking
Participating in a speech contest as a speaker, volunteer or attendee allows you to network with other Toastmasters. Though Toastmasters is primarily for professional development, it’s a great way to meet and socialize with others in your community. These networking opportunities often turn into long-lasting friendships.
5. Enthusiasm, Energy, Fun
Above all, speech contests are FUN! They are great places to learn new things and find entertainment and inspiration. Every speech contest I’ve ever attended has been full of energy and totally fun.
Whether you’re looking to improve as a speaker or try your hand at volunteering, there’s something of value for everyone at Toastmasters speech contests. Opportunities for personal and professional growth, networking, and fun abound!