“Toastmasters have changed my life!”, could definitely be the slogan of Josef, a devoted member of Brno Business Toastmasters (BBTM).
Nowadays Josef is an experienced public speaker: not only can he deliver speeches fluently and persuasively, but he has been also pursuing his leadership career as PR manager, organizer of meeting and evaluator.
We asked Josef (AKA Pepe) to answer a few questions about his beginnings, fears at the beginning and experience he has gained along the way. Feel free to share this article in your social circle!
Can you please present yourself in a few sentences?
Currently, I’m a programmer, but I have studied both IT and law. I love to learn new things even out of school. Currently, I’m focusing on studying new languages, in particular Spanish.
How did you learn about Toastmasters? Why did you decide to join particularly Brno Business Toastmasters?
I encountered some courses on the topic of public speaking at the university and wanted to follow up on that. Then, at my first job, I encountered a colleague who invited me to visit a Toastmasters club. This brought me to a BBTM meeting.
How would you present Toastmasters to someone who has never heard of it?
I do that quite often. Usually it goes like: “It is a place where you can speak or present in front of an audience and get evaluations. It is quite professional and organized. Also, we’re totally not a cult.”
Do you remember your first speech, evaluation and table topics?
I do quite distinctly remember all three of them. My first speech was called “Cards of my life” and revolved around using few cards (ISIC, playing cards for marias, credit card) to introduce myself to the audience. First evaluation was for Simeon’s icebreaker, where he spoke about his personal growth. My first table topics speech was in an amazing session where we didn’t draw separate topics, but instead the speakers were telling a story that evolved on the go. It was the first time I got to use a prop that has become my trademark – a screwdriver. Also, it was absolutely horrible performance. I feel I’ve learned a lot since then.
What are your strategies to cope with stress and nervousness before or during a speech?
Find a way to look forward to the speech. Prepare a small joke somewhere during the speech, a hidden remark, a funny gesture.. anything that works for you. Perhaps more important factor is preparation. I can’t stress this enough – if you want to have a great speech, it won’t go without a great amount of preparation, training and drilling. I have rather perfected the art of preparing a speech in a minimized amount of time, but sometimes this minimalistic preparation leads to feeling uneasy and unsure of myself.
What are 3 crucial factors for continuous progress of public speaker?
Determination, friendly environment and time.
You have been a member of BBTM for more than 2 years. What experience you have gained along the way?
I’ve clearly learned a lot about public speaking. However, I believe that far more important is the leadership part. Every role has taught me something, but each role is nothing when compared to Toastmaster. When I took upon that role for the first time, I discovered how tough it is to set up a meeting. On Saturday all roles were filled, including the minor ones. Then, on Sunday, people started rejecting the roles with various apologies. Until Tuesday morning I kept calling the member and I pretty much begged them to take the roles. In the end it worked out and the experience brought me a lot.
Members of Toastmasters clubs can also take officers roles e. g. as PR managers, education managers or membership managers. Which roles have you already had and what did you learn through this experience?
VPPR (managing club PR), where I realized it taught me a lot, but that the role was also highly time demanding.
Sergeant at Arms, which I’m currently doing, is better suited for me, as the time requirements outside of the meeting are minimal. Honestly, this isn’t a role where I could learn much, as it is more about the stuff that is repetitive and just needs to be done. It isn’t without its advantages, however, as it lets you carry around the banner, which looks incredibly cool.
Can you name some unique events or stories you have experienced thanks to being part of Toastmasters family?
Since I’m a rare breed of programmer, as I like speaking in public. That means I’ve represented our company on few prestigious events – Backendisti (a developer meetup) and Webexpo (a large developer and designed conference). There were a few conferences I’ve attended or helped organize. As for the stories it is largely related to people rather than to the Toastmasters family itself, but there were few parties or other events for sure.
Some people are scared of coming to meetings because they are not sure about language skills or are afraid of public speaking in general. What would you recommend to do in order to overcome the fear?
This is a tough one. I’ve spent my last two years trying to find the answer for this question, but it keeps eluding me. When I find it, I will let you know.