It’s true: friends and spouses think we’re crazy. Why would the members of Club Awesome Toastmasters meet at 7 a.m. to practice public speaking? Adding to the puzzle: why would we choose to do it at an ice rink?
If the members of Club Awesome are crazy, it’s a good kind of crazy.
We get up early because, for many of us, that’s the best way to squeeze this personal and professional development activity into our schedules. We wrap up at 8:30 sharp so members can get to work (and they know they can duck out early if they need to because of an early business meeting).
Toastmasters is about “public speaking,” but it’s more than that. It’s not necessarily that everyone involved wants to be the next Tony Robbins or Barack Obama (besides, any Toastmaster regardless of party affiliation will tell you Obama says “um” too much). We do have members who work as consultants. Some aspire to be professional speakers. I recently became an author (Social Collaboration for Dummies) and have used the skills I learned in Toastmasters to give book talks and participate in panel discussions (or moderate them). We periodically attract members who are running for office, or thinking about it. But you don’t have to have those ambitions to benefit from the program.
The skills you learn in Toastmasters can help you any time you’re in a business meeting and the boss asks, “What do you think?” They will help you in a job interview, or when explaining to the school board why you will not accept their half-baked redistricting plan. Knowing how to speak up for yourself, for your business, or for a cause you care about is a critical skill in so many parts of life. Giving formal speeches is only one part of the Toastmasters experience: you also get practice at organizing and running a meeting, speaking off the cuff, and giving constructive feedback to others.
Toastmasters is the most valuable, affordable form of professional education I’ve ever found. I also think most people don’t understand how much fun it is to get together with a group of people and listen to each other’s stories. We laugh together, we learn together, and we support each other.
As for meeting at the ice rink, here’s the story: for the first couple of years after I joined, we were meeting in a classroom setting at Strayer University. That became part of the personality of the club, that we met in a professional, educational setting rather than a coffee shop. Last year, the management at Strayer told us we’d have to either change our meeting time or go elsewhere because they didn’t have staff in the building at the hour we were meeting. So we left. We left on good terms, we left reluctantly, but we left. Like I said, that 7 a.m. start time is actually essential to the character of the club.
After months of wandering between temporary locations, we found our way to the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs. To be clear, we’re not actually meeting on the ice. We’re in an upstairs conference room. I’ll admit it took a long time for us to even think of it as a possibility. Turns out the Iceplex opens early for serious skaters who come in to practice. Walking through the lobby, you’ll find the building chilly enough to wake you up. But the conference room itself is very nice, overlooking the rink where the Florida Panthers are sometimes practicing during our meetings. It’s not a bad idea to wear a sweater or a suit jacket so you won’t be cold, but really it’s fine. Honest.
Meeting at a skating rink is just another thing that makes Club Awesome the coolest of all Toastmasters clubs.
Come visit us!