Learning doesn't have to begin and end in a classroom. There is always more we can do after formal education to become the best version of ourselves – the “Mr. Miyagi” of our respective fields.
That’s where Toastmasters comes in. Toastmasters is an international organization that teaches members how to speak and lead confidently. Birdhouse Toastmasters, our HomeAway chapter, meets weekly and alternates between two of our Austin offices. You might be thinking, “What’s in it for me, why should I make another commitment during my already busy day?” Sarah Miller, a Business Analyst at HomeAway and VP of Public Relations for Birdhouse Toastmasters, is taking over the blog to share how this club has helped her personally and professionally.
How Toastmasters Helped Me Overcome My Fear
By: Sarah Miller
The first time I heard about Toastmasters, I imagined a bunch of jovial extroverts and excellent public speakers delivering compelling addresses and public roasts. I thought I would stand out like a sore thumb since I was terrified of public speaking – even meetings with as few as five people would trigger my anxiety. Why would I ever voluntarily put myself through that? At the same time, I knew deep down that Toastmasters could help me push through my fear – that joining would teach me how to speak up in meetings and talk about my ideas in public.
Shortly after joining HomeAway as a Business Analyst, I participated in my first HackAway. I came up with an idea for a “city finder” that would help travelers discover cities they would enjoy visiting. I was really excited about my idea, but to present it at HackAway meant I had to face my fear of public speaking. The presentation would be in front of executives and several of my colleagues, both in the room and on the phone worldwide.
I was able to deliver a three-minute speech followed by a Q&A without stumbling. I had to prepare for expected questions and curveballs thrown by some of the smartest, most knowledgeable people in the company. Even though I was nervous in the days leading up to the speech, walking out I felt invincible!
Shortly after the competition, Birdhouse Toastmasters hosted an open house at our office. I already faced my greatest fear, so Toastmasters didn’t seem as intimidating. I joined that day, and I’ve now been a member of Birdhouse Toastmasters for two years. Many club members are just like me - introverts wanting to conquer their fears and perfect the art and science of delivering effective, professional public speeches. It’s much easier for me to speak up in meetings and it takes a lot more than an audience of five to shake me.
My managers have seen a substantial difference in my confidence and speaking abilities and now they recommend Toastmasters to the team. I can think on my feet when called to offer an opinion because of the skills I’ve acquired from Toastmasters. I am more likely to speak up when I have something to say, whereas before I often waited until after meetings to share my ideas privately.
We have so many opportunities to be heard by our HomeAway leadership team. Whether it’s a Monthly Product Review, 120 presentations, or weekly team meeting, we are encouraged to share publicly more than ever before. There is no better time to improve your speaking skills and learn to thrive under pressure.
Did I mention HomeAway even covers membership fees for employees? There is truly nothing holding you back from joining Toastmasters, so spend your lunch break with us and master the art of the public speaking.
If you’re a HomeAway employee in Austin interested in joining Toastmasters please visit Birdhouse Toastmasters on the wiki.
Want to join Team HomeAway or check out other cool perks we offer? Visit our careers page!
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