If you dread the idea of going out to “networking groups” and introducing yourself to random strangers, you might find a Toastmasters club to be more to your liking.

I have been a member of Toastmasters since 2007, the same year that I moved to Raleigh. I have been a member of the same club the whole time (Raleigh Talkmasters). I was a horrible public speaker when I first joined. I won the “Wizard of Ahs” award for saying “um” and “ah” 19 times in a four-minute speech. I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest public speaker today, but I will say that I have come leaps and bounds from where I was in 2007. Toastmasters has helped me to develop not only as a speaker, but as a professional and a businessperson. Part of what I like about our club is the fact that a handful of the members head up the street to the Deja Brew coffee shop afterward for some informal fellowship. It has helped to create a close-knit group with a lot of loyal members.

Networking without “Networking”

What Toastmasters doesn’t advertise (but perhaps should) is that it provides a rare and valuable networking resource. In fact, I have had more quality networking experiences at Toastmasters meetings than I’ve had at most “networking groups.” You get to meet people who are building businesses, putting together community projects and committed to bettering themselves as individuals. You also get to know all about people from hearing them give speeches. Last but not least, Toastmasters provides ways to vet potential business partners. For example, when you serve with someone on a leadership team, you find out what their strengths and skills are.

Next week, I’m speaking at our Toastmasters club. It’s going to be a live demonstration of how NOT to network. It’s going to be fun! We meet at 7:15 AM (yes, I said AM and not PM). Our meeting takes place at the HPW Real Estate School at 3801 Wake Forest Road. You can find a map to the meeting on our Meetup site. Come on out this Thursday (or any Thursday) if you want to see what I’m talking about!