How I learned to speak up with Croydon Toastmasters

By - Monday 29th June, 2015

Gina Rocque-Drayton on stepping up, speaking up and overcoming fears

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” (Lao Tzu). My journey as a toastmaster and member of Croydon Communicators began in April 2014. I wanted to overcome my fear of public speaking and increase my self confidence. I’d heard about Toastmasters, so I went along to a session in East Croydon.

Toastmasters International was founded by Ralph C. Smedley in 1924 to help people who wanted to develop public speaking and leadership skills. It is a global organisation that helps you become a better communicator as you practice those skills, and today there are more than 313,000 members in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries worldwide. In Croydon there are four toastmasters’ clubs: Croydon Communicators, Speakers of Croydon, Fairfield Speakers and Purley Speakers.

My confidence grew with every speech I delivered

Croydon Communicators is a great place to meet like-minded people and expand your professional network. As the saying goes: ‘your network is your net worth’. When you join Toastmasters, ‘where leaders are made’, you gain valuable abilities, building up your public speaking skills, communication skills, listening skills, evaluation skills, leadership skills, mentoring and coaching skills. Every time you deliver a speech in this supportive environment you gain confidence and are one step closer to becoming a competent speaker.

Everyone is welcome to attend as a guest: you’ll receive a warm welcome and experience an evening of exciting speeches and evaluations, along with all the benefits of joining Toastmasters.

 You’ll become a better speaker as you learn by doing. I found that as I practiced and prepared for my speeches I started to improve. I learned the basic foundations of public speaking and received invaluable support from members of my club and my confidence grew with every speech I delivered. When your speech is evaluated you learn about your weaknesses and strength as a speaker. This really helps you to hone your communication skills.

Lots of people fill in by um-ming and ah-ing. Learn the power of the pause

You’ll develop your listening skills; listening to other members give their speech and listening to evaluations of their performance helps you to absorb information and identify improvement opportunities. It’s a great chance to learn. For example, lots of people use filler words such as “ums” and “ahs”. You’ll learn the power of the pause which competent speakers use whilst they make their next point.

You’ll develop leadership skills: at each meeting you can take on different duties which help the club meeting to run effectively. Club members can take on leadership roles within their clubs. Each year elections are held and members can nominate themselves or get nominated to take on an official role. Taking on roles within your club presents you with an opportunity to develop leadership skills; these skills are transferable to both your professional and personal life. Since joining Croydon Communicators I’ve been nominated for the role of Vice President of Public Relations which I held for a year; this year I will be taking on the role of Vice President of Education in July.

You’ll expand your network; Toastmasters is a great way to meet new, interesting and successful people who are all passionate about continuous personal development. I’ve met many interesting people who have become my mentors and have supported me along my journey to become a competent speaker. You get plenty of opportunities to mentor new members and help out more experienced members.

Croydon Communicators meets every second, fourth and fifth Thursday of the month at Mind in Croydon, 10 Altyre Road, East Croydon, CRO 5LA. 

Gina Rocque-Drayton

Gina Rocque-Drayton

I am passionate about developing my public speaking skills. I’ve been a member of Toastmasters for 1 year. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. My favourite quote is: “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon”. (Paul Brandt)

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