The theme for District 4 Toastmasters this year is “Find the Connection.” What an inspiring theme and relevant message! To me, the beauty of Toastmasters is in the opportunity to network with others. In my first few months as Area Director, I enjoyed making a ton of connections with fellow Toastmasters. I am learning and growing all the time, just like a tree, adding branches and leaves as I go.
Toastmasters is all about the people and the connections we build with each other. That’s what makes the Toastmasters experience so valuable. The skills we develop while connecting are applicable to our lives outside of Toastmasters as well.
Starting conversations with strangers (even acquaintances) can be uncomfortable for many people. Below are some tips to help you network inside and outside of Toastmasters and ensure you’re making the most of those connections.
1. Take Baby Steps
Be patient. Connecting and networking take time. If you signed up to run a marathon, you wouldn’t start your training plan with a 26-mile run, would you? Networking is the same way. Make a plan and stick with it. Start slowly and pay attention to how you feel.
For example, attend one networking event, eat lunch with a new group of people at your office, or visit a new Toastmasters club this month. See how you feel after that experience. Did you feel energized? Motivated? Excited to do it again? If so, work your way up in frequency. Pretty soon, networking will become a habit that you genuinely enjoy.
2. Challenge Yourself
It’s normal to feel nervous, and it can be uncomfortable to put yourself out there! If you ARE nervous, develop strategies to get used to networking. Learn from Toastmasters, friends, and colleagues who you believe are successful networkers.
Challenge yourself to connect with others, even if you get butterflies. The initial fear of connecting with others will wear off with practice. When you’re feeling more comfortable, try connecting with people on a deeper level. That’s how you really get to know people and develop long-lasting, meaningful relationships.
3. Reap the Rewards
Networking on a regular, consistent, deliberate basis will make you a stronger person with more skills and experience to offer. You will reap benefits at work, home, and in your volunteer activities. After all, everything is ultimately interconnected!
Go out and find those connections and enjoy the relationships you create. Don’t forget about the added benefit of collecting colorful stories for Toastmasters speeches! You will also be a great mentor for others by sharing your experiences.
We all need to discover new connections and build relationships with people in our lives. This will make us happier in the long-run, with much to offer our families, friends, and colleagues. Whether you’re comfortable with networking or need a gentle push to get going, make the decision now to move forward. You’ll be glad that you did!