Quitting Toastmasters

March 31st, 2010 by Steve Pavlina

After almost 6 years as a member of Toastmasters International, I’ve decided to quit my Toastmasters club (and Toastmasters as a whole). Today is the last day of my paid membership. As of April 1st, I will no longer be a Toastmaster.

I made the decision a few weeks ago, and I’ve already notified my club President. That was rather easy since the President of my club is Erin. :)

Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not quitting my club because of Erin. If I’d felt any social awkwardness due to our separation, I could simply switch clubs and continue on in Toastmasters (there are about 50 clubs in Las Vegas alone). But there was no such awkwardness to speak of, so that’s a non-issue. This is something I’m doing for different reasons.

My Toastmasters Experience

For most of my years in Toastmasters, it’s been a wonderful educational and social experience filled with many growth lessons and great friendships. Toastmasters was a terrific group to join after I first moved to Las Vegas in 2004. I made new friends quickly, and it allowed me to enjoy a rich social life in a new city. It was also a great complement to blogging, helping me expand my verbal communication skills along with my writing skills.

I learned a tremendous amount about public speaking, and I got to speak a lot. For the first year, I averaged about one Toastmasters speech per month. I also competed actively in speech contests and even won a few. I performed every possible meeting role many times over.

I wasn’t overly afraid of public speaking when I started in Toastmasters — I’d already had some experience speaking at tech conferences — but I still had some nervousness to shed, and I had a lot to learn in regards to technique. Toastmasters worked very well for me in that regard. I got much better, shed all the nervousness, and grew to really enjoy speaking. These days I feel very comfortable on a stage in front of a group of people. It’s easy for me to be completely myself without feeling pressured or nervous. On the contrary I find it a lot of fun.

My journey of learning to be a better speaker is far from over. I still have much to learn, and of course I’ll continue on that path. But at this point, my learning must progress beyond Toastmasters. There are better ways for me to continue growing in this part of my life, one of which is simply to rack up a lot more stage time and gain additional experience.

Deciding to Move On

For more than a year, I’ve felt the disconnect building. Toastmasters meetings have become easy and predictable to the point of being boring. I skipped a lot of meetings this past year because I didn’t see much point in going. On the occasions that I did attend, I realized I was mainly there to hang out with friends, not because I wanted to attend Toastmasters.

I haven’t given a speech in my club in about a year. It doesn’t make sense in terms of opportunity cost for me to continue working on Toastmasters speeches. The feedback I receive isn’t particularly helpful to me anymore. I get no value from doing 7-minute speeches or performing other various meeting roles when I’m now doing 3-day Conscious Growth Workshops on the Vegas Strip. My best ideas simply don’t fit into 7 minutes or even 20 minutes.

Toastmasters is very focused on polishing delivery skills, whereas my focus is on developing great content. Delivery is important, but between delivery and content, great content is still king. I’d rather get feedback on my content, and there’s a general rule of thumb in Toastmasters that you don’t give feedback on someone’s content, so that rule doesn’t serve my needs. I can get all the content feedback I need online, so Toastmasters isn’t necessary for that.

There are people who’ve been in Toastmasters much longer than I have, but for the most part Toastmasters serves as a social club for them. I have more social opportunities than I can keep up with right now, so I don’t need to attend club meetings as a social outlet. Our club has gotten so big that I barely have time to chat with my friends there anyway. I can easily contact such friends directly if I want to hang out with them, such as by arranging a disc golf game.

Furthermore, it goes against Toastmaster etiquette to speak on certain topics that are of interest to me. There are many topics I’d love to speak about that would be considered inappropriate in a Toastmasters environment. If I really spoke about what mattered to me in a style that I enjoy, it would create too much drama, and I might put my friends in the difficult position of having to kick me out of the club. Toastmasters simply isn’t the right venue for what I want to communicate. There are better outlets for that, such as my own website. I’m perfectly okay with that. Toastmasters’ etiquette is there for good reason. If I stuck around, I’d probably end up going kittywompus and sabotaging my membership, so I’d be forced to drop it. (In fact, this is exactly the kind of behavior we see in members of our discussion forums when it’s clear they’re ready to move on, but they can’t get themselves to let go with love. So instead they go crazy nutso, create lots of drama by breaking rules, and eventually get themselves banned. I’d prefer to just bow out while the bowing is still good instead of going the drama route.)

What about using Toastmasters as a place to give back? It isn’t the right outlet for that either, given my particular situation. It makes sense to do more writing and speaking for people who are keenly interested in what I have to share… as opposed to delivering short-form content to a small captive audience. If I write a new blog post, I can get it into the hands of tens of thousands of people within a matter of hours. That just doesn’t compare to writing and delivering a speech for such a small group. I already have much better outlets for giving back.

I only needed to give one more speech to earn my AC-Silver designation, but picking up another educational award wouldn’t have any meaning for me, so I will have to remain an AC-Bronze. I’ve given so many speeches outside of Toastmasters that I could have gotten credit for, and I didn’t even care to do that. That tells me I really don’t place any value on further advancement in Toastmasters. That path is a dead end for me.

Letting Go With Love

This isn’t a decision I’m making against Toastmasters or against my club. It’s a decision I’m making for me. I recognize that it’s time for me to let go and move on. I have lots of wonderful memories from Toastmasters, and I shall forever cherish them.

But for now, this is a part of my life where the energy has become stagnant. It’s no longer flowing with growth and abundance. There are many new areas I wish to explore, and by dropping Toastmasters, I can free up more attention, time, and energy for new adventures.

I still highly recommend Toastmasters for people who want to develop their communication and leadership skills. It works. Especially if you’re nervous about public speaking, Toastmasters is a great way to overcome your fear of the stage and become a competent communicator. It helped me go from being a pretty weak speaker to being able to earn $50K in a weekend for speaking — and to have fun doing it. Given that a Toastmasters membership costs about $70 per year, I think that’s a pretty good return on investment. This is more evidence that the best place to invest your money is in your own personal growth. Now I get to apply and enjoy the speaking skills I developed for the rest of my life.

I’m very grateful for all the amazing lessons and friendships I gained from Toastmasters. Joining Toastmasters in 2004 was one of the best decisions I ever made. If I had to do it all over again, I’d have joined much, much sooner… ideally during college.

I’m also excited about what else I might do with the time and attention I previously devoted to Toastmasters. Removing this activity from my plate will free up more space to take on something new.

This is not an early April Fools joke by the way, just in case you were wondering.



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