I've been a member of American Greetings Toastmasters since 2000. Never in my life did I ever even want to be in a speaking club. Public speaking for me was certainly feared more than death -- as it is with many people. I call myself "the poster child of Toastmasters."
I used to hide in the bathroom on my knees, sick to my stomach before every speech. It has been that way since grade school for me. I finally realize it all stemmed from my low-confidence problem. It's strange... I believed I had something I wanted to share with the world, but the only place I could ever express it was in my writing -- on paper. Through Toastmasters I have finally realized that if I only have the courage to speak -- and speak with confidence -- people will listen (this is true for anyone).
I have since earned my CTM (Competent Toastmaster) award, my CL (Competent Leader) award twice, and I just completed my Advanced Communicator award in June, 2008. I also have several trophies I've won from Toastmasters speaking contests, two Toastmasters of the Year plaques from my club, and I served last year as President of American Greetings Toastmasters. What the heck is going on? How did this happen?
It sure didn't happen overnight for me. Getting self-confidence was a really long haul for me. I just thank God that I've finally arrived... and I don't live in that prison fear of public speaking anymore! I'm FREE at last!
In April, 2004, I actually won my way up to the District level (passing through the club, Area & Division levels) for the International Speech Contest. The speech was a story about witnessing my nephew's birth - my message was that I was given an incredible opportunity which I nearly passed up because I was afraid. Fear nearly kept me from experiencing the most awe-inspiring event I've ever witnessed.
I gave my best performance ever at the District conference where I finally lost -- didn't even place. I'm convinced to this day it was because I was the only one up there not wearing a business suit.
I was pretty disappointed, but kept telling myself I was happy just to have made it that far. Certainly no reason to get depressed. A week went by, and my husband surprised me with my best trophy EVER! He made it in his spare time at work so I wouldn't know about it. I was so happy I cried. On the top medallion shape he had written, "BECAUSE YOU DESERVE IT!"
What a great guy!
This will always be my favorite trophy and it towers (as you can see) over all the others.
My biggest trophy ever... for losing! Ha!