Toastmasters: Join Us on the Ride

Thank you Madame President and thank you all for letting me speak tonight. I’m Rob Schlaff, the VP of Education for DE2.

My job is to inject some excitement into your life. These days we can’t do the things we did last year. We can’t go back to France like Julie(1)our French member or to the amazing Queen tribute shows that Quinn(2)Our president, Quinn produces The Ultimate Queen Celebration produced. I know you need something to make you excited. Like really exciting. Like Toastmasters.

I’m not joking. Giving a speech is like being on a roller coaster. You’re waiting, waiting, waiting for it to start and then you just go. It’s this excitement is what makes it so much fun. But unlike a roller coaster, the excitement and scariness at Toastmasters helps you build a skill. It’s about learning and growing and becoming a better speaker and a more confident leader.

Last month we had a new guest who said to me, “Rob, everybody here is such a great speaker. I’d love to be that good but I don’t think that’ll be possible.” That’s about right for your first meeting at Toastmasters. But I had to tell her that she made a great Table Topics (3)Table Topics is the time for extemporaneous speaking during Toastmasters meetings speech and that she could definitely be as good a speaker as the rest of us. It just takes time and effort.

But there’s a relatively simple roadmap for getting there, and it’s my job guide you through each of the challenges in the Toastmasters gauntlet.

Making speeches is the core of Toastmasters. These speeches are organized into groups called Pathways. Pathways are a framework for becoming a better speaker. It may look very rigid like a straightjacket, but it should be used more as a guide. One of the great benefits in this club is that we have some very senior Toastmasters like Quinn and Jennifer Chan. We can help you to leverage the Pathways framework to help you mold it to what you want to do. I want to help you make every speech count. For example, the speech I’m making today is a persuasive speech I need for my pathway. Let’s work together to get on the agenda and move you forward on your Pathway.

Making your first speech is a bit scary. So before doing that, there are roles you can take on to help out the club, like being a Timer or an Ah Counter(4)The Ah Counter counts filler words like “Ah”, “Um”, “You Know”, etc.. These are important roles but don’t feel intimidated. Pick it up and do as best as you can and you’re probably mess up the first time but that’s OK. We all mess up the first time. You just don’t see it because most of the people in the group made this mistake last year, before you joined.

Getting back to making every speech count, one of my favorite speeches is giving feedback. Giving your feedback is incredibly important in the real world. At my job, there are always people with different opinions. In order to have productive conversations, I need to be an expert at giving feedback and deal with conflict. Toastmasters gives a great framework for affirming people and reflecting back what they said before providing corrections. But it’s more than that. It’s not about just giving great feedback but it’s also about giving a great speech—impactful and confident.

Even roles like Toastmaster of the Day aren’t nearly as intimidating as they first appear. It’s really about practicing your confidence. It’s actually easier than making a speech because you already know the key things to say. It’s kind of scary the first time like everything else, but yet again that’s what makes it fun. The great thing about Toastmasters is that anyone can sign up to lead the meeting once you know the ropes. I’ve led many meetings before but Toastmasters is the only group that lets me practice running meetings.

So let me be your roller coaster guide, or maybe it’s your roller coaster seat belt. Later this week, I’m going to send out a survey to everybody just tell me what you want do this year in Toastmasters and how I can help you. Look up your role reports to see the status of your Pathways to see what you want to accomplish. I can help you get on the agenda and make sure that you can reach your goals. I, and the rest of the Toastmasters team leadership team, are committed to your success. But recognize that to make the most out of Toastmasters you’ve got to face that fear and get on the roller coaster.

I look forward to working with you this year and helping you to make every speech count.


1 our French member
2 Our president, Quinn produces The Ultimate Queen Celebration
3 Table Topics is the time for extemporaneous speaking during Toastmasters meetings
4 The Ah Counter counts filler words like “Ah”, “Um”, “You Know”, etc.