Amongst ruining someone else’s speech last night because I didn’t time it properly, I kept on forgetting to turn the cards over to indicate the times during speeches, kept on annoying the other people next to me for help, and had a wonderful evening! It taught me that this is the perfect place to screw up.

Last night I was given my first role of timer at my 4th meeting for the Toastmasters in Edinburgh. Each member takes turns of taking the various roles held in each meeting. This not only helps to maintain the structure of the meetings by having such roles, but also allows more participation and experience in organised speaking. Apparently its the easiest role to get into but that didn’t stop me from completely ruining it….

30 seconds or so into the first speech and I forgot to press the start button on the timer. In the prepared speech I never turned the cards over to show the speaker how they were doing. I had to ask the name of the person speaking..

If you ask my boss, he will tell you my abilities at time keeping, especially in the mornings. And this level of ability was certainly visible in my role of timer. Thankfully the clock took care of the actual timings and the other guys were there to help me out when I was about to do something seriously wrong.

If I had been nervous about doing the role beforehand, or giving a small speech at the start about doing the role, it certainly wasn’t as nervous as waiting till the end of the evening to be given an evaluation on my part. Yes I did badly, but it was then I realised that doing this was exactly what I needed.

Every time I have gone to the Toastmasters meetings I have felt apprehensive because I didn’t know the people well, the thought of impromptu speaking was deadly frightening and the thought of screwing up a speech was just unimaginably scary. And screwing up is exactly what I did. But at the end, I was given some incredibly encouraging feedback, told not to worry as it was my first shot at the role, and for most people speaking, my role of timer was done absolutely fine. Turns out I didn’t screw up as bad as I thought.

Being given encouragement and positive feedback was really important to me which helped me to realise that going to Toastmasters is one of the most important decisions I have made in a long time. Its a very supportive atmosphere and even though people will stumble along the way, it certainly is the place to do it as you will be picked up and you are helped to improve.

I would definitely encourage anyone who wants to work on their communication skills to look into it. As I have experienced, it teaches more than the technical skills of speaking effectively, but also prepares you for the things that can go wrong. It isn’t nearly as bad as all the horrible thoughts in my mind would have me believe it would be. With my newly bestowed confidence, I can’t wait till the next meeting where I take on the role of Table topics master…

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