Toastmasters – Where leaders are made

According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy (Jerry Seinfeld).

Yes. You’ve probably seen and heard this quote a thousand times. But how can we get past it? How can we conquer our fear of speaking and how can we turn adversity into opportunity?

Toastmasters, a safe place to practice
You may have heard of it before – it’s a worldwide nonprofit organization that unites people with a common goal: to become a better communicator, speaker and leader. And there is a Toastmasters club right here, in Eindhoven; 2 actually, one in Dutch, if you feel adventurous and one in English for the rest of us. Here’s how Justina, a member of Lighttown Speakers Eindhoven, relates her Toastmasters experience:

People who join Toastmasters normally have a plan or a vision to become better. Better speakers, better presenters, better leaders – you name it. In many ways, we all want to be that person in front of a crowd, radiating confidence and charisma, sharing information with ease, convincing and inspiring the rest. So many Toastmaster beginners secretly wish to become that guy.

Funnily enough, I never had that vision. I did not think of public speaking as something I should master; I did not have a grand plan of becoming a true leader either. I actually did not even have a fear of public speaking in the first place. So I joined Toastmasters purely by coincidence. As a full time student in Tilburg, yet a newcomer resident of Eindhoven, I wanted to find an activity to fill in the gaps of time between university and sleep. So googling around for international clubs in the city, Lighttown Speakers popped up with an intriguing description of a public speaking club. I thought to myself “Why not?” – and signed up for a visit. By the next meeting, I had already requested membership forms. It has been four years now, and I am still a proud member.

Lighttown Speakers taught me in these past four years that regardless of our talent, we all have something to learn from others. It was thanks to this club that I somewhat fixed my tendency to speak insanely fast, and that habit of mine to scare away from eye contact – while watching others handle their stage fright, improve their English skills, put their body language under control, and other amazing skills. In these four years, I have seen how lively and organic a Toastmasters club can be: members come and go, join and leave, but meetings, contests and Christmas get-togethers still need to be organized, so I learnt to commit to a group, how to say hello and how to part ways when the time comes.

I do not mean to create this mysterious impression of a club that magically transforms people into leaders and confident public speakers – no, that it is not. Lighttown Speakers is a rather informal club built of a variety of nationalities, backgrounds and skills. We are engineers, doctoral students, businessmen, lawyers, but we also are martial art teachers, cooks, travellers, equestrians; we are located in the heart of Brabant, but we come from India and New Zealand, from Romania and Georgia, from China and USA, from Ireland and Greece. There is quite some of us, and we all differ in various ways. But we are all there for one purpose, and that is to learn. I can honestly think of no better setting for learning than that!

If you have never heard about Toastmasters before, you can count on the fact that somebody else has. Being a Toastmaster gave me confidence points during an interview for a job (which I eventually got! Ha!), and practising Toastmaster skills in a real life setting has planted in me a sense of peace and confidence when I need to present things for work. Speaking publicly on a regular basis has made me comfortable with my English skills, imperfect as they may be, and with my accent, and I have become more capable to focus not on my language, but on my speech instead. I regularly receive compliments at work for a skill to structure my speeches and deliver a message in a concise and convincing way – and I can thank my Competent Communication manual for that.

But then most importantly, Lighttown Speakers brought me together with some of the most inspiring people I have met in my life, and the continuous spirit of learning, support and honest feedback has given me invaluable connections.”

Justina Lukosiute, Member and former President of Lighttown Speakers

The Eindhoven Club
The Lighttown Speakers club is the only English speaking club in the Eindhoven vicinity, with people joining from Tilburg and Den Bosch to be able to hone in on their speaking skills. Having members from all over the world, makes for fun and exciting meetings every single time. Both new and experienced speakers are there to support you, in a safe environment.

Andrei, a member of Lighttown Speakers, says: “We had members who were terrified of stepping in front of a group (myself included) and who, with practice, flourished and grew significantly. Some of them cherish it nowadays. We also have experienced speakers who grab every chance to speak and those provide a great inspiration for everyone else and they are also a great learning example. It’s all up to you how fast or slow you want to go. On top of all that, it’s just a fun place to be.”

Curious about the meetings?
Without giving away too much, because the best way to understand it is to experience it, the usual meeting’s agendas are composed of prepared speeches, impromptu speeches and evaluations, amongst others. You receive personalized evaluations and feedback from every member that helps you develop and grow together with the group. We’re all in this together.

If you feel like pushing yourself a bit, or just getting over those nervous moments when you have to speak up, feel free to drop by anytime (curiosity is free) and see for yourself how the Toastmasters of Eindhoven have fun on Wednesday evenings. If you’re not sure or you’d like to know more, here are some facts for first-timers.

Where do we meet?
We have bi-weekly meetings at De Boerderij, High Tech Campus 61, Eindhoven. For exact dates, you can have a look at our events on the Lighttown Speakers Facebook Page or on our Meetup Page. Come grab a seat while there’s still room!

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