An Introvert’s Journey in Toastmasters Leadership

By Janice Fairfield

I am an introvert and I share my story here in hopes of inspiring other introverts to step out of their comfort zones.  

I am Janice Fairfield and my Toastmaster’s journey began in January 2015.  We had a great leadership team that encouraged our members to step outside their comfort zone.  Although an introvert, I felt safe and supported.  It wasn’t long before I decided I could be a club officer. I chose VPPR because I felt that, of all the roles, it required the least amount of speaking—PR at our club was in written form.  I had also been a PR person for an employee network at work.  Six months later, in June 2015 I stepped up to be VPE.  I felt safe in it because I saw the role more as an organizer of matters than that of leadership.  

When I attended the D57 conferences and club officer training sessions (TLI), I would see others being asked to take on the Area Director role.  No one ever asked me to be an Area Director, leading me to think I wasn’t good enough to be one.  I joined Toastmasters to improve my self-confidence and knew I had more to offer, why was I being overlooked?

In the meantime, I kept hearing everywhere—within and outside of Toastmasters—that we need to step out of our comfort zone.  That we learn and grow when we push just beyond our comfort zone.  I finally convinced myself to volunteer to be an Area Director for the 2017/2018 term.  It turned out to be an enjoyable experience that allowed me to build my network and leadership skills.  I enjoyed connecting with the club officers within my area when I did my club visits and found almost everyone excited to learn from my experience.  Was I the perfect leader?  Absolutely not, but it didn’t matter. That’s the great thing about Toastmasters.  We learn by doing. And everyone is supportive.

As my term as an Area Director was ending, I was asked to be Division Director for the Division where my Toastmasters club is located and where I served as Area Director.  Many of the sentiments that I heard from D57 members rushed through my head:  I don’t have time, I’m working a lot of overtime, I have family obligations, I have other obligations I need to do.  Then I remembered two important things I’ve learned during my years at Toastmasters:

  1. At one of our D57 District Executive Committee Meetings (DECM), we talked about getting our money’s worth from Toastmasters.  Toastmasters offers us so many ways to improve our communication and leadership skills.  If we aren’t stepping out of our clubs to take advantage of these opportunities, we aren’t getting our money’s worth. 
  2. Toastmasters is run by volunteers based on service leadership.  If we are getting benefits from Toastmasters, it’s our duty to support the organization.  If it wasn’t for the many volunteers, Toastmasters wouldn’t be what it is.  District 57 has great members who selflessly give of themselves on a regular basis. 

At that point, I knew I had to accept the call to action.  Throughout my term, I have grown and I have helped others grow.  The time commitment has been manageable and the benefits received outweigh the cost of my time. 

As I get ready to hand the torch to my successor, I reach out to any introverts reading this.  Don’t wait for someone to ask you to be a club officer or an Area Director.  If you enjoy Toastmasters and have a desire to share your knowledge, reach out to a current officer.  Start with a position just outside your comfort zone and work your way up to VPE or Club President.  After you’ve been a VPE or Club President, reach out to an Area Director.  Toastmasters, and D57 have lots of material and people to support you in your roles.  There are many positions D57 still needs to fill.  Don’t miss this opportunity to get your money’s worth!

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