Toastmasters is for everyone, regardless of their background and education

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Toastmasters is for everyone, regardless of their background and education

Annisa Rantanen

Today we introduce you to our club’s president, Annisa Rantanen and her inspiring story. 

I joined Toastmasters in 2016, and I found my local club in Tampere, thanks to one of my Indonesian friends. She was coming to visit Finland the same year, and as we discussed her visit, she mentioned the word “Toastmaster”. It was funny because the first thoughts that came to my mind were: “What is this Toastmasters about? Is it a cooking class or forum for people mastering the art of toast bread?” It turned out it had nothing to do with cooking, but everything to do with public speaking and leadership. 

I was intrigued, so I went to a club meeting even before my friend arrived in Finland. There I was greeted warmly and listened to inspirational speeches, impromptu speeches, and evaluations. I was impressed by how the meeting was held, and I liked that people gave each other short written notes of encouragement and feedback. 

So many people spoke good English, and most of them seemed highly educated. I was not sure my place was there because I’m a housewife and have no higher education. I remember sharing my background with a member and asking if I could still join. The answer was: “Toastmasters is for everyone, regardless of their background and education.” 

With a strange mix of doubt and newfound confidence, I dared myself to join the club. The story I told about myself during the icebreaker was of my struggles and what it meant to be a housewife. In the “housewife community, there’s a lot of shame going around these stories and women are judged because they choose to put their families and children first. One member of that community harshly said to me that “you won’t make a difference no matter how hard you study”.
To my surprise, my fellow Toastmasters found my story inspiring, celebrated it and admired my courage to speak up. It made me feel safe and comfortable. I felt seen for who I was despite my situation and gained hope and confidence for the future. 

People are positive and motivated, and I often hear during the meetings: “You can do it. You have come very far, and you will do just fine.” 

One of my greatest memories with Tampere Toastmasters is joining a speech competition. I am fascinated about finding that perfect moment when I am not nervous anymore. The flow is there, and everything else seems to fall in place. I learned that giving a speech is not about me, but the value and the message I can offer to the audience. It’s not about how good I look on stage, but whether my message can impact other people’s lives. I learned about this by attending a speech competition in Lithuania. From that day onward, I was able to relax more and shift the focus placed on myself to the audience. 

Another important skill I learned throughout my membership with Tampere Toastmasters is how to give and accept constructive feedback. Taking feedback was always hard for me, especially the negative one. But after joining Tampere Toastmasters, this has changed. I know that the purpose of feedback is to help me improve my communication and leadership skills. 

Nowadays I’m acting as the President of Tampere Toastmasters. What I love about this role is being able to support other fellow officers while practising people and leadership skills. 

I love all parts of our meetings, but my top two would have to be Table Topics and Giving a Speech. I learn a lot from other members’ speeches. They inspire, motivate me and even make me wiser. No matter their form (inspirational, humorous, informative), speeches give me value, knowledge, and good practices for real life. And don’t even ask about Table Topics, it’s a hell of a lot of fun! 

Join Tampere Toastmasters, and you will see for yourself what I’m talking about. It’s not just a public speaking community. It’s a great source of good energy. See you at the next meeting!

📷: Annisa and her little one from her personal album 

— Written by Andruta Illie

#ToastmasterStory