Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jane V Blanchard - How Toastmasters has impacted my life

In 2003, after getting “downsized” from a company in Massachusetts, I moved to Sarasota, Florida.  For purely selfish reasons, I joined Toastmasters. I wanted to network and to learn to interview better. Little did I know how joining Positively Speaking Toastmasters would alter my life, helping me grow beyond the speeches.
Over the years I learned so much more than the mechanics of public speaking. I learned to listen and to give and receive positive feedback.  I learned to think on my feet and to find my voice and perfect my expression. I learned leadership skills, how to effectively conduct a meeting, and to encourage participants to achieve their best. And most importantly, I made friends who watched me grow, encouraged me forward, and were always happy to see me. Positively Speaking Toastmasters made public speaking fun.
Because of my newly gained confidence, I became vocal in women’s activist groups and subsequently became a leader at the local and state levels.  I wrote letters to the editor and was published more than 35 times. I spoke at peace rallies, lead marches, addressed the local city council. Starting in March 2008 and for two years, I hosted a weekly radio program, Women Matters. I am now campaigning to develop awareness about human trafficking in Sarasota County. None of these accomplishments would have happened without my joining Toastmasters.
In 2010, overwhelmed with work and activities, I left Toastmasters, relieved at not having to prepare speeches and overjoyed to gain an evening each week. The sky didn’t fall, but this rising-star started to fade.
It happened so slowly that I didn’t even notice.  My once-a-month letter to the editor started to become once every six weeks, and then further and further apart. I retired from the radio program, and stopped writing monthly newsletters and on-line journal entries. I declined leadership roles in various organizations, becoming more of a bystander.
I tried to rationalize why this was happening: I was tired; I was emotionally wiped-out; it was someone else’s turn to take on the responsibilities that I no longer wanted to deal with. As author David Harold Fink said, "You don't have to do anything you don't want to do." At that point in my life, I did not want to do anything. So I stopped.
One day I realized that when I left Toastmasters, I left behind my voice. David Harold Fink also said “When we become a part of anything, it becomes a part of us.” I was not just a part of Toastmasters, it was a part of me, the creative part. To regain my voice, to exercise my leadership skills, and to reconnect to my creativity, I HAD to rejoin Toastmasters.

On Friday, August 12, 2011 with a smile on my face, I greeted my friends, “Good evening, my fellow Toastmasters.”


  1. Congratulations!

    It's always good to know another person who has a heart for humanity and is willing to take action.

    Keep speaking. Your voice is being heard.

  2. Congrats Jane! Your writing and your speeches always have me in awe. I keep hoping some of your talent will one day rub off onto me.