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by Gretel Breytenbach

A self-confessed personal development junkie, Gretel Breytenbach explains how Toastmasters is one of the best programs she has ever tried….

From Dale Carnegie through to “firewalking” with Anthony Robbins, I've tried it all! And I've loved it all. The key I guess to personal development is that you take something, at least one concept, and embrace it with all you've got, and then apply it in all aspects of your life. If not, all that learning is in vain, and we forget so easily! So it was in this spirit of learning and personal growth that I finally decided to get in touch with Toastmasters.

Having been a presenter with a personal development college, I realised that standing in front of a crowd, and still making sense, is a skill that needs to be mastered and then nurtured constantly!

I called the Toastmasters info line and was advised to attend various clubs to see which one I most connected with. First on my list was the Palm Beach Currumbin Club. Perfect, since I live in Palm Beach, Queensland! While I consider myself fairly eloquent in front of a crowd, it was still with much trepidation that I arrived on that first evening!

What a surprise! It was a breath of fresh air. In all my life I had never experienced such a welcome, so much support! And this was the first time! “Maybe that's why,” the cynic in me thought!

Seven months down the track I still attend every Wednesday night from 7.30 sharp to 9! It was the first club I went to and I joined that same night! And every time I go, I still feel that same welcome, that same encouragement, that same support.

Some of us will relate to the feeling of being an outsider. I must admit I even felt that way in South Africa! In my life coaching, I found this to be true for many people. And yet, joining Toastmasters was like finding “my tribe”! While all members are unique and individual in their own right, we have common interests that bind us; a love of language, a desire to improve and grow, a willingness to guide and mentor. It is an environment where differences and strengths are recognised and encouraged, and where improvements are genuinely supported. And while there are members who are exceptionally experienced and are pursuing careers as professional speakers, there are members who simply joined to gain self confidence. No matter the level of experience, the goal or the intention, every member is valued.

Toastmasters is about personal growth on all levels. While most people have heard of Toastmasters, almost everyone I've spoken to believes it is all about getting up in front of an audience. While this is one of the components, it is not the only one! The other “arm” of this personal development opportunity is “leadership” and it is here that I find Toastmasters an absolute gem. Every member is encouraged to support and mentor other members; or join the executive committee to gain experience in various leadership roles.

Truly the opportunities for learning are endless! And while I've attended many personal development programs, this one group, once a week, has afforded me more opportunity to grow, learn and develop than any other training I've done!

Some of the things I've learned:

• Clear concise communication

• Better able to express oneself

• The values of listening, support, encouragement

• Camaraderie

• Learning

• Understanding

• Eloquence

• Personal courage

• Confidence

• Ability to lead, willingness to lead

• Communication and leadership

• Internationally recognised, visit other clubs worldwide

• Speech contests

• Competition

• Workplace recognition

What is Toastmasters International?

The leading movement devoted to making effective oral communication a worldwide reality. Through it's member clubs, Toastmasters International helps men and women learn the arts of speaking, listening and thinking, vital skills that promote self-actualisation, enhance leadership potential, foster human understanding and contribute to the betterment of mankind.

It is basic to this mission that Toastmasters International continually expand its worldwide network of clubs, thereby offering ever-greater numbers of people the opportunity to

benefit from its programs.

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Posted by Gretel Breytenbach
25 Jun 2009

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