I first came to Toastmasters rather reluctantly. Some of my coworkers and family members had suggested I start attending a club so I could improve my confidence and interpersonal skills, but I was unsure of what to expect. I had only heard of Toastmasters vaguely as a professional public speaking organization, and Toastmasters' official website showed a lot of people wearing suits and shaking hands. Would the club I chose be a stuffy place full of uptight business people? I was hesitant to see what I would find. But when I found First Oakville Toastmasters, I decided to give it a shot, knowing that I could attend three meetings without losing any money.
What I found at First Oakville was anything but stuffy and uptight. Just as it still is now, this was a club full of unique and interesting people from a variety of different backgrounds, nationalities, professions, ages and interests. More importantly, everyone I met there was welcoming to me and invited me to participate and learn more.
Of course, the club members still conducted the meeting professionally - this was a group designed to build public speaking and leadership skills for people's careers and interests, after all - but the atmosphere was one where people brought their own skills and perspectives to help one another reach their goals, rather than one of rigid corporate conformity. So, despite still not understanding how everything in the club's business sessions or Robert's Rules of Order worked (and don't worry, most Toastmasters are still learning that), I decided to join.
I quickly found that one of First Oakville Toastmasters' best advantages was that it had been running for many years and had a mix of longstanding and new members. Many of the more experienced members were very skilled at mentoring others in effective speaking, as well as explaining how and why Toastmasters did things the way they did. Newer members balanced this out by bringing fresh perspectives and ideas to the club. My own mentor during my first few months at First Oakville, Allan, was good at offering advice and answering my questions while letting me build my own speaking style independently. I believe that this balance of longstanding decorum and forward thinking is what continues to make First Oakville Toastmasters a dynamic and strong club to this day.
As I began giving speeches and taking roles in the club, I started meeting and working with more and more of the club's members, and soon enough I was making friendships and working relationships. The supportive atmosphere of the club made it a place where I felt comfortable trying new things and practicing new skills - and where I could try new challenges.
Since I joined First Oakville Toastmasters, I have entered several different speaking contests (which I might not have had the confidence to do otherwise); served on the club executive as Secretary, Vice President of Education, and Sergeant at Arms; and collaborated with many people on a variety of interesting projects.
I am thankful to all the people of this and other clubs who have supported me on this journey so far, and I look forward to supporting them and others in kind. That is because one thing I have learned from First Oakville Toastmasters is that anyone can share in this kind of learning and success, thanks to the supportive and encouraging atmosphere that the people of this club create. This is what keeps me coming back to Toastmasters.