How Toastmasters Helped Me Land a TEDx Talk - Anna Szabo of Online Discipleship for Women

Have you ever had a dream of becoming a public speaker and sharing your big idea with the world? Here’s how Toastmasters helped me become a TEDx speaker in 17 weeks of membership (I actually landed a TEDx talk in less than 90 min) and why you should join Toastmasters, too.

In 2009, I was a homeless victim of Domestic Violence and spoke no English. When in the shelter for battered women where I stayed, I saw a blue wall banner with the names of 300 victims of domestic abuse who committed suicide in 2008 in Georgia, I decided that I will survive, I will learn English, and I will empower women to persevere through adversity. Two weeks ago, I landed a TEDx talk at TEDx Marietta Square in less than 90 minutes. Let me tell you how Toastmasters changed my life.

Why Toastmasters

I vividly remember a conversation with my friend Dawn. She was talking to me on the phone about the vision she had about me speaking from a big stage. It was June 2019.

My response to Dawn was that I couldn’t see how that would happen because every time I talked about my personal life story, I’d cry. And she said I’d be a global speaker sharing my life story…

Here’s a little bit about my story just so you can understand what I went through and why it was so hard to talk about, why I cried.

My Story

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The truth is this: in 2016-2017, I experienced narcissistic abuse and suicidal depression, which led to psychomotor retardation. I withdrew from everyone and everything and spent months alone at home in my pjs trying to make sense of what happened to me. I became very introverted, and so hearing Dawn paint her vision for me on the big stage didn’t fit into my own vision of the fragile me all withdrawn, isolated, and shattered into pieces.

I was manipulated into suicidal ideation my the narcissist who wanted me dead, and these were the words of my trauma counselor as she clearly saw what he was doing to my psyche. I was in a bad place, the worst place ever, to be honest. And I was the very woman whom I once dreamed of helping. Let me tell you what I mean.

In 2008, I was married to a real-life Prince Charming whom I met online. I emigrated for him to America, and yes, I am a mail-ordered bride from Russia. Here’s a video explaining why and how I ended up homeless, in a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Stone Mountain, GA.

When Dunwoody Police Department rescued me from Prince Charming who was about to kill me on April 9th, 2009, the officers took me to the International Women’s House, a shelter for battered women. It was there, on the wall in a hallway, that a blue banner caught my attention.

The names of 300 women who lost their lives to abuse in 2008 in the state of Georgia were listed on it. I thought to myself: I will survive and teach myself English and I will dedicate my life to encouraging and empowering women. If at least one woman does NOT commit suicide because of my story of hope, my life would be a success. That was what I vowed in 2009.

I taught myself English within 18 months listening to Frank Sinatra, and in January of 2011, I passed the Academic English Test. Within a few weeks, I was accepted to Georgia State University’s Professional MBA (PMBA) program on a partial scholarship. In 2013, I graduated with a 3.74 GPA and published a book about my story to encourage and empower women.

In 2014, I gave my life to Christ. I was baptized at Buckhead Church on October 19th, 2014. I shared my faith journey and life story on video, which was a requirement at Buckhead Church, and 3,000 people watched my water emersion live at an 11 am church service on that sunny Sunday when the trees were on fire in Atlanta, featuring red, orange, purple, pink, and other incredibly-beautiful colors. Here’s my baptism video.

As I walked out of Buckhead Church after my baptism, I knew I was changed and my life was changed, but I didn’t anticipate what was coming.

A man targeted me for 11 months, lured me into marriage with him, and after the wedding night, abandoned me, our marriage, and our home. He said he didn’t want to be married anymore and wanted to be an IronMan instead and compete in Kona. He filed for divorce a few weeks after our wedding, which took place on May 14th, 2016 at the Russian restaurant Verdi in Norcross, GA. Here’s our wedding video.

I couldn’t even comprehend what that man did to me. Besides threats and his narcissistic rage, I was subjected to Gaslighting, Projection, Discarding and Silent Treatment, and other profound narcissistic mental cruelty tactics aimed to manipulate the narcissistic victim into a complete mental haze, hopelessness, and suicide. Here is an article I wrote sharing 28 narcissistic abuse techniques he practiced on me, which resulted in my depression.

You see, when I was abused in 2008-2009, it was very physical, obvious, I was bruised, scratched, and traumatized, and the police officers saw it. It was visible. When I was abused every moment of every day in 2016-2017, the narcissist was cruel and very clever: the scars he left on me were deep, I was bleeding, I was shattered, only that trauma was on the inside, it was invisible, and it was unbelievable.

His abuse was profound, and it was beyond my compression. I lost my hope. I wanted to die to just not have to be me anymore, to not have to be in that situation with the evil narcissist, who was adored by everyone around and put a daily masquerade to deceive everyone. He claimed to be a seminary graduate, too, and quoted Bible verses left and right… It was quite a show, and I was so confused. Here’s an article I wrote about the impact of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on my mental health. So, in 2009, dealing with abuse, I was strong and I wanted to empower women who lost hope. In 2016, I was the woman who lost hope, dealing with not-so-visible abuse.

It took years to recover my mental capabilities, restore intellectual capacity, and revive my spirit. I give God all the glory for my story. But the truth is this: it’s been hard to envision myself on a big stage sharing all this because I witnessed how fragile I can be. And I’d cry, lose my train of thought, and go blank when speaking about what happened to me.

So, my friend Dawn in June of 2019 was sharing her vision of me but my vision was 1000 times smaller. The best thing in my story is this: God called me to this ministry, He gave me Online Discipleship For Women in 2017, and He never asked for my permission. God didn’t ask me to sign any papers. He gave me purpose, and He got me working for His kingdom. My not believing in myself did not stop God in believing in me. And so, here was Dawn declaring God’s big vision over me as I was resenting it and talking her out of believing this big vision was possible… Yep… I was talking and talking and talking to persuade both Dawn and me that I was fragile and not strong and that I loved isolation more than talking to people…

Why Toastmasters   - Anna Szabo of Online Discipleship for Women

God made Dawn’s words stick. I started thinking about this, and God gave me the same vision. I knew that to speak from a big stage, I’d need to master public speaking. In the next few weeks, all I heard from various people was “Toastmasters, Toastmasters, Toastmasters…”

I said: “Ok, God, I’m listening, let me go check out what Toastmasters is all about.” And I did. I went on to visit six Toastmasters Atlanta clubs, and I realized that joining Toastmasters would help me become a confident speaker, learn to face the audience boldly as I’m sharing my story, and give me practical experience of actually doing what was in my vision.

What was in my vision?

I was on a TEDx stage speaking to a global audience.

My Toastmasters Experience

I started doing my research: “What is Toastmasters? Why Toastmasters? How does Toastmasters work? What are the benefits of Toastmasters?” “How Toastmasters helped me” etc.

During the research, I realized that there’s a lot of conflicting information out there, and I just need to go and experience Toastmasters for myself.

Six – that is the number of Toastmasters clubs in Atlanta visited by me a few weeks after Dawn and I talked. And I actually captured my entire journey on video. Access my Toastmasters videos here.

I visited six Toastmasters clubs as a guest, and I really liked two: Rising Phoenix Toastmasters Club and iNCRedible Toastmasters Club at NCR Corporation. The NCR club on Wednesdays at 11:45 am was too far from my home but Rising Phoenix Saturday meetings at 10 am worked well.

Ok, God, I will join the Rising Phoenix Toastmasters Club as soon as I finish building my blog. Thanks. Got it. I’m all in, just not right now. That was my thinking. Well, God heard my plan and laughed. He had a different plan. God planned for me to start speaking at Toastmasters immediately, and He orchestrated it perfectly, without ever needing my consent.

What happened was this. I visited Rising Phoenix and produced a video about my Toastmasters experience, which I published on my YouTube channel here. Brad Singleton, the President of Rising Phoenix Toastmasters, reached out to me on LinkedIn and thanked me for the video. he also told me about Toastmasters speech-a-thon held on August 24th, 2019, five days from that Linkedin conversation. I had never heard of speech-a-thon.

Brad invited me to speak at that event. And this is where drums shall play, confetti and fireworks mush fire, we all drink champagne, and this blog ends… Why? Because Toastmasters changed my life from that day forward.

I said “yes” and prepared a speech.

I delivered it on August 24th, 2019, and by the time I made it back to my seat in the audience, the President of iNCRedible Toastmasters at NCR, who was attending my speech as a guest, paid for my membership at Rising Phoenix Toastmasters.

Rewind? Ok.

It does sound crazy, I know, so, here’s a rewind for you.

The President of iNCRedible Toastmasters Felicia Kemp and I became friends when I contacted her off of the Google listing for her club. We talked for over an hour. I came to visit her at NCR to talk. Then, she invited me to visit iNCRedible Toastmasters at NCR, which I did, and here’s the video.

Then, she came as a guest to my speech at speech-a-thon at Rising Phoenix Toastmasters on August 24th, 2019. I delivered my speech, and when I walked back to my seat, Felicia told me she paid for my Toastmasters membership and that I was a Toastmasters member now.

What happened next felt surreal.

I started delivering speeches, taking home Best Speaker ribbons, was invited to become a member of Toastmasters Speakers Bureau, met super-talented people, made new friends, and became a TEDx speaker.

My Toastmasters Speeches

  1. Identity in Christ – My Spiritual Quest 8-24-2019
  2. God Is Good or Is He 9-7-2019
  3. Suicide Alleviation via Self-Negotiation 10-19-2019
  4. The Wonder-Power of Leadership 11-2-2019
  5. The Happiness Illusion 11-16-2019
My Toastmasters Experience  - Anna Szabo of Online Discipleship for Women

After that, I was invited to be a guest speaker at a women’s conference on Sunday, December 15th, 2019, and here’s the video.

Then, I was invited to be a guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs, and here’s the video. I received that invitation after visiting Rotary as a guest in December of 2019. I also got to perform at a few spoken word poetry events in Atlanta in 2019, and I wrote a blog post about it sharing lots of personal details: here is my blog called Spoken Word Poetry.

Then, on Friday, January 10th, 2020 my friend Jessica Park told me about a live TEDx audition taking place the next morning at 10 am for TEDx Marietta Square. Thanks to my Toastmasters experience (and spoken word performances, too), I had the courage and I was prepared, so I went, and that same day I was chosen to be a TEDx speaker. Here’s the video.

That is how Toastmasters changed my life.

It all started with me exploring Toastmasters Atlanta clubs.

Toastmasters Atlanta Clubs

What I am going to share with you here are my exact Yelp reviews for each of the Toastmasters Atlanta clubs I visited, word-for-word, each accompanied by a link to a respective review on Yelp.

Atlanta Toastmasters Clubs I Visited

  1. St. Leo The Great Toastmasters
  1. The King’s Speech Toastmasters
  1. Sandy Springs Toastmasters
  1. Buckhead Toastmasters
  1. Rising Phoenix Toastmasters
  1. iNCRedible Toastmasters

St. Leo The Great Toastmasters Club

St. Leo The Great Toastmasters Club Review

I decided to visit St. Leo The Great Toastmasters as a guest after learning more about Toastmasters from my friends who attended and benefited from this community.

I went to St. Andrews Catholic Church where this group meets weekly from 7:30 pm till 9 pm, and it turned into a one-of-a-kind adventure!!!!

TIPS FOR YOU

1. Wear casual clothing, no one wore a suit there
2. Eat in advance, no food or drinks served
3. Carry water to drink - you'll need it, I promise
4. Bring your brain with you, make sure it's alert
5. Be ready to speak, they'll invite you to do a talk
6. Relax because these folks are friendly and chill

MY POOPING ADVENTURES

So, as I'm pulling into the church parking lot, this HUGE track is in the middle of the driveway and there's nowhere to go.

I'm like: what's going on?

The dude driving the track is READING.

Yep, he's READING in the middle of the road.

His track is running.

Ok...

I signaled for him to move of course.

He gave me this weird face like WHY ARE YOU BOTHERING ME?

You think he moved his track?

Nope.

He started looking around to show me my nodding his head how there's room to go around his track.

MOVE DUDE!

I gave him a stare.

He moved.

A few feet later my whole Prius was covered in POOP.

That is like SHIT. I mean pure stinking SEWAGE!!!

It ain't no joke!

Here's what happened.

This dude hit the sewage and broke the thing and he didn't know it!

I got out of my now stinking shit-covered Prius and walked confidently into the poop universe.

Walking up to the second floor, I noticed it was only 3 min before the meeting was supposed to start.

Don't say a word, Anna, just be quiet, they probably already know anyway, don't make a SHITTY first impression by bringing up the SHIT news.

I found myself persuading myself to just fit in and be quiet.

I'm walking in. A friendly gentleman greets me with a smile. Hi, are you Anna? I'm like: yes! Pleasure to meet you, Dave, did you know that there's poop pouring all over the church parking lot and it's literally covered in shit?

They looked out the window and saw the whole thing.

No. They didn't know it! I'm glad I wasn't quite, otherwise there would be a POOP CRISIS at this church within a few hours.

INCREDIBLE TEAM

The team immediately prioritized properly, postponed the meeting, and mobilized its members to report the problem and find a solution.

We all ran out to witness the fountain of shit covering the parking lot.

AND THE TEAM REMAINED CALM, PRODUCTIVE, AND WORKED TOGETHER TO IMMEDIATELY RESOLVE THIS.

I loved witnessing their teamwork!

It's only during a terrible adversity like poop attack on a church that true leaders are revealed.

Toastmasters is about making leaders, improving communication, and activating collaboration.

I witnessed St. Leo The Great Toastmasters team demonstrate all of the above critical skills in the midst of real-life adversity and true emergency.

When we all sat down for the meeting, I felt connected and welcomed.

I loved being there now that I saw the real deal about team's communication and collaboration skills in action.

TOASTMASTERS GUEST

The membership fee here is $70 a year. Members pay to learn and to practice their skills. According to the Toastmasters website, guests don't speak or participate. I expected to mostly be ignored and just  observe the flow.

No, uh uh!

Not at St. Leo The Great Toastmasters!

The team introduced themselves, they were genuinely curious about me, they were inclusive and warm, they were inviting and personable, and I loved loved loved being there.

It was a great learning experience UNTIL...

Katie next to me asked:
WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO A TABLE TOPIC?

Sure - said I shaking from fear remembering how just a few weeks ago I was paralyzed in front of the entire Urban Grind crowd in Midtown at an open mic event.

Of course I'd love to do a table topic, said I responding to Katie simply because I committed to conquering my fears with faith and courage.

TABLE TOPIC

I was invited to the front, shook Dave's hand, he asked me a question "WOULD YOU RATHER TRADE YOUR INTELLIGENCE FOR LOOKS OR LOOKS FOR INTELLIGENCE?" and I responded in 1:09 min, which apparently was a good thing.

From the critic I learned that I said no ums or like like YOU KNOW like um...

None of those.

That was encouraging.

CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK

The way people grow and evolve here is by providing and accepting constrictive evaluations. It was incredible to witness those! Eye-opening and thought-provoking. I can say this without a doubt: people here genuinely love each other and care about each other's growth.

SUMMARY

I highly recommend this club. St. Leo The Great Toastmasters team is like a family. At least, that's how I felt.

Hope this review encourages you to visit and join St. Leo The Great Toastmasters.

Best wishes!

Anna Szabo via Yelp 6-20-2019

The King’s Speech Toastmasters Club

The King's Speech Toastmasters Club Review

It was my second time as a guest at Atlanta Toastmasters, but my first time at this UPS club. Located inside a UPS facility, this is a corporate-mentality club as opposed to St.Leo The Great Toastmasters I visited last week in Atlanta where people attend because they want to improve on their own. All the talk at this UPS Toastmasters Club was about doing Toastmasters for performance evaluation, not your personal aspirations.

I'm visiting different Toastmasters International clubs in Atlanta to choose the one I'll want to join.

LOCATION

Inside a UPS facility, downstairs in a very small room with a giant table, no stage. Traffic was none, getting here was easy.

PARKING

Free and plenty. Safe and clean.

ACCESS

Sign with security. Wait to get your badge.

TEAM

Only two members were there and four people were guests. The leader did a good job activating every attendee to do a Toastmasters club role.

LEADER

Vicky was nice, very talkative, Two things were unusual: she mostly promoted Toastmasters but didn't ask if anyone had questions and as I was sharing a vulnerable personal story about being a victim of domestic violence, Vicky laughed.

ENVIRONMENT

Toastmasters International advertising on their website and YouTube showcases rooms with stages and people wearing suits, they showcase well-organized meetings focused on advancing your speaking skills. It is not what you'll experience here. The room is so small, there's hardly any space to mingle. There is just huge table. That's all. The content of a 45-min meeting was mostly a promotion of Toastmasters club membership and we all were asked for a payment at the end of the meeting. It's $130 to join. I didn't.

SUMMARY

Overall, I'm realizing that Toastmasters might be misrepresenting its typical club environment on their website and YouTube. I'm realizing from two meetings at two different clubs that every club is ran differently, some teams are committed and some are not, some clubs focus on personal goals and aspirations while others on performance for your manager's approval.

I got to do a table talk for 1 min 34 seconds and the attendees voted for it as the best table topic so I got recognized with a ribbon. I'm going to continue to attend different clubs looking for meaningful content, aspired and committed team, and a good setup.

Three of the four new guests did join this club and they loved it! I recommend you come as a guest and check it out for yourself.

Many blessings!

Anna Szabo via Yelp 6-25-2019

Sandy Springs Toastmasters Club 

Sandy Springs Toastmasters Club Review

Sandy Springs Toastmasters is a place of joy and fun! I loved attending this delightful Atlanta toastmasters location in a beautiful venue with art and piano! In the last two weeks, I've been attending Toastmasters International as a guest at different clubs to learn more about the toastmasters community.

The new President Una Richards was so warm and kind, she made me feel welcomed and at home.

My detailed opinion about this toastmasters club in Sandy Springs is below. Also, take a look at the pictures and videos.

ADDRESS

The address is 350 Carpenter Dr, Atlanta.

FACILITY

The facility is a 9-story building, which is a  community for elderly people to live in. It looks like a hotel. The toastmasters club has been meeting here for 30 years at the cafeteria on the first floor to the right from the entrance.

PARKING

The parking in the APARTMENT COMMUNITY next door is free and plenty. Watch my video to see the parking lot. The parking at the community center is limited and you need a special toastmasters sign in your car to park at the facility.

DIRECTIONS

From Roswell Rd, turn to the LEFT on Carpenter Dr, go down the hill for a few seconds and look for a 9-story beige hotel-like building on your RIGHT. There's no gate or anything. You've arrived.

ENVIRONMENT

The meeting environment is beautiful: piano, wall art, large space, comfortable chairs and tables, they have a podium.... Plenty of light there! Loved it!

TEAM

The team is joyful, people are friendly and welcoming. They laugh together and you can feel their bond.

STRUCTURE

Unlike two other Atlanta Toastmasters clubs I attended previously, this club doesn't shake hands, only allows 30-50 seconds for table topics vs regular 1-2 min as other clubs, and they don't call each other Madam. They address one another by the first name, which is unusual for toastmasters. They took a break during the meeting to mingle and talk and I loved it. Such an incredible group of people!

SPEAKING

The team gave every member an opportunity to speak. Very good! They also invited me to speak, so I did a table topic: see video attached. If you visit as a guest, I think you'll love it!

SUMMARY

It's a large group of joyful folks meeting in an awesome facility with a marvelous setup. I felt included and welcomed. I can see myself joining this club.

Hope this review encourages you to visit Sandy Springs Toastmasters as a guest and find out for yourself what it's like to be a part of this community.

Anna szabo via Yelp 6-27-2019

Buckhead Toastmasters Club

Buckhead Toastmasters Club Review

Buckhead Toastmasters meets at a beautiful church facility that's hidden in the woods.

DIRECTIONS

There is URGENT CARE one-story building right before the church sign, turn to the right BEHIND the church sign, go UP the driveway into the woods, church is on your left. On the first floor is the Toastmasters club meeting.

PARKING

Plenty of free parking.

BATHROOMS

Plenty of clean bathrooms.

TEAM

This Atlanta toastmasters club is large. According to Toastmasters International website, they have 46 members. Tonight they had 11 guests. The team worked well together, it was apparent that they take time to bond. They are friendly toward each other. The president was incredibly warm and kind, he worked really hard all evening and still got tome to personally speak with each guests to make us feel included.

GUESTS

Unlike the other 3 toastmasters clubs in Atlanta, which I visited in the last few days, this club has seats in rows, they don't allow guests to speak, they do not ask guests for feedback at the end of the meeting, and they have printed programs, which was helpful. They did invite each guest to introduce themselves before the meeting began.

SOCIALIZING

They go to dinner every week together and spend July 4th at the house of the President of the club.

PERFORMANCE

The president mentioned that it's a laid-back club, and it was easy to witness based on the level at which the club members speak, their ability to track with their own thoughts and questions asked, as well as their command of the English language and their body as a speaker.

It was the only toastmasters club out of the four I visited where the following words filled the speeches of those people who've been members of this club for over 4 years:

- I mean
- um uh
- ok so
- um so
- like you know
- man you know

This is a great club for anyone who's looking to socialize in a laid-back environment with a large group of casual people.

Anna Szabo via yelp 6-27-2019

Rising Phoenix Toastmasters Club

Rising Phoenix Toastmasters Club Review

Rising Phoenix Toastmasters Club is the best Atlanta toastmasters community by far!

LOCATION

3010 Johnson Ferry Rd in Marietta is a beautiful YMCA that's easy to find, has large free parking lot with wide parking spaces where your car will be safe, and is very convenient if you want to get your speaking and physical workouts done in one place.


SATURDAY

This is the only toastmasters club in Atlanta that meets on Saturdays. So convenient! They had 19 people in the room and it was an incredible way to invest my Saturday morning into something engaging, intellectually-challenging, productive, growth-promoting, and inspiring.

VENUE

North Cobb YMCA teen room is where the meetings of this Atlanta toastmasters club take place. The YMCA itself is large, well-lit, the front desk staff is friendly, and the meeting space is easy to find. The bathrooms are huge, many, clean, smell good, and come with showers! What a bonus! The teen room where toastmasters meet is a gorgeous room - orange walls, plenty of space and lighting, podium upfront, and for me it was true love at first sight!  I had been to some pretty claustrophobic dark rooms with no air when visiting other toastmasters clubs in Atlanta. I visited FIVE in the last two weeks.

TEAM

The team is well-spoken here. Would you not expect this simple thing from a speaking club? No. Some toastmasters clubs I visited can't properly speak on even the most elementary level. There was a team I met whose members can't even track with their own thoughts or questions asked. And the topics some teams talk about are shallow, they have no value, they don't challenge you to grow. It's impossible to grow at a toastmasters club where team has no speaking skills.

This team's command of the English language, body language, audience engagement, speaking space, and meaningful topics of substance is OUTSTANDING.

I was encouraged and empowered by the speakers here whose topics were personal, emotional, transformational, and of eternal value.

STRUCTURE

Table topics here were 1-2 min. That makes for my conclusion that the standard for a table topic at toastmasters is 1-2 minutes but some clubs do 30-50 seconds, which is not helpful. Such short timing is uncommon for toastmasters as you must fit an opening, message, and conclusion into your table topics speech.

This club members practice the famous toastmasters handshake, which is what you want from the club you join. Two clubs I visited disregarded this toastmasters' tradition.

This club members conduct themselves in a  professional manner and uphold themselves to high standards - you can witness it immediately once you start interacting with the team.

They won many awards in the last 10 years. They are President Distinguished.

They follow the guidelines thoroughly and strive for excellence, which is why so many of their members are outstanding.

FEEDBACK

The feedback they provide is detailed, meaningful, unsugarcoated, and constructive - exactly what I was looking for and couldn't find anywhere else. They pay attention, document, and bring to your awareness every little mistake you make to help you improve. That's why they are so excellent as I witnessed today.

SPEAKING

Speaking skills here are at a ten out of five stars. This group has ambitious goals and they work intentionally and consistently to achieve those goals. They encourage each other to grow and challenge themselves. I was delighted by the level at which every person here performed today. This is the club I'm going to join.

LEADERSHIP

Leadership here is wonderful. Out of 20 toastmasters clubs in Atlanta I reached out to, this is the only club that reached out back to me! Their President called me on my cell phone to invite me and emailed me as well. The communication was professional and detailed: I wasn't brushed off.

When their leadership spoke about membership, it was to educate the visitors and encourage them to pursue their goals - not to sell. There was one club I visited where the president spent 60% of the meeting selling membership and asked for payments right away. Here things were different: the membership BENEFITS were communicated for YOUR personal growth, not for a checkbox in your performance review at work to please your manager, like one other club I attended.

Leadership here invests in people, and I walked out inspired! This is exactly what I wanted and that's why I'm going to join this club.

GUESTS

Guests here are treated with friendliness and honor. Everyone was made feel included. Guests are allowed to participate and vote and this is THE ONLY toastmasters club in Atlanta that allows this.

I was honored with the BEST TABLE TOPIC ribbon after people voted for my table topics speech.

SUMMARY

Out of the five toastmasters clubs I visited in Atlanta, this is the best club by far! You WILL enjoy it here, I'm confident!

Anna Szabo via Yelp 6-29-2019

iNCRedible Toastmasters at NCR

iNCRedible Toastmasters at NCR Review

I visited  iNCRedible Toastmasters Club on Spring St in Atlanta today. It's open to the public, parking is free.

LOCATION

The new tall glass NCR building is across from Cheetah club. You'll see three letters on it.

PARKING

Follow the sign to the 864 building, turn right, go to the back of the building, make another right, drive straight till you see yellow garage entrance, park there.

FACILITY

This is the most beautiful facility for Toastmasters International in Atlanta (I visited SIX clubs in three weeks). There's security, eight restaurants there, clean bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows, modern ergonomic furniture, coffee, tea, and fancy elevators. It's gorgeous! The rooms are bright, well-ventilated, with plenty of space.

ENTRANCE

Walk in, see security desk, say hi to Mrs. Vivian. She'll have you sign in, take your picture, and issue your guest badge. Wait till Toastmasters come get you. Get some coffee at the shop there while waiting. They have free WiFi, by the way.

TEAM

The team here is iNCRedible!!! They are fun, collaborative, friendly, encouraging, smart, talented, and very charismatic! I loved witnessing new officers stepping in and I enjoyed meeting club members and getting to know them.

SPEAKING

It is not a given that people at a Toastmasters club in Atlanta can speak well. I've seen some clubs where toastmasters can't speak. So, I'm making it a separate point: these club members can speak really well. Their command of the English language is iNCredible. The vocabulary I heard was rich and interesting. The grammar was excellent. They strive to learn and grow and I could see it in everything they did.

SUBSTANCE

The topics discussed were of great substance so I stayed engaged and learned a lot. I got so much out of it! It was meaningful and transformational because people spoke genuinely from the heart about the things that matter.

SUMMARY

I highly recommend this toastmasters Atlanta club.

P.s: you can bring your laptop and lunch here

Anna Szabo via Yelp 7-7-2019

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Table Topics Examples

From the moment I stepped into a Toastmasters Club, I was invited to participate in Table Topics, which are short impromptu speaking opportunities when a Table Topics Master (just a person with a question-asking responsibility for that specific day) ask you a clever question and you must answer on the spot providing a response within a given timeframe. Table Topics length is very inconsistent among clubs, based on my experience. Some clubs give you 30-60 seconds, so clubs say you must go on with your response for two minutes.

I wanted to share with you four Table Topics examples from my experience. In this video, you see my real-life responses to Toastmasters Table Topics at four different clubs.

My Four Answers To Toastmasters Table Topic Questions

  1. The first Table Topics example in this video is from iNCRedible Toastmasters at NCR where I won the Best Table Topics ribbon.
  2. The second Table Topics example in the video below is from St. Leo The Great Toastmasters Club, which is only .7 miles away from my home, across the river. I won the Best Table Topics ribbon there as well.
  3. The third Table Topics example is from Sandy Springs Toastmasters Club where they do not people to vote for guests, so they don’ allow guests to win ribbons. Consequently, I didn’t win the Best Table Topics ribbon.
  4. The fourth and final Table Topics example in my video is from the Rising Phoenix Toastmasters where I won the Best Table Topics ribbon.

I also won the Best Table Topics ribbon at the King’s Speech Toastmasters club at the UPS but I didn’t include that response in this video. You can see my answer in this video, scroll to 2:35 time stamp.

My Toastmasters Icebreaker

If you read this far, thank you. I have a warning for you: it’s about to get really painful. One person cried listening to my Toastmasters Icebreaker speech. So, you can watch it on video or read it below or skip this section.

If you’re still here reading, you’re brave.

Below is my Icebreaker speech delivered on August 24th, 2019 at Rising Phoenix Toastmasters. And you might be wondering how come this was my Icebreaker.

Well, they invited me to speak as a guest, as you know. But once Felicia paid for me to join Rising Phoenix Toastmasters club that day, they said that this speech from speech-a-thon would be submitted as my icebreaker.

So, here’s my Icebreaker speech from Toastmasters International.

My Toastmasters Icebreaker Speech 
"Identity In Christ - My Spiritual Quest"

"I hate you and I just want you dead!"

These were the words of my mother said looking me straight in the eye. She called me a miscarriage because I didn’t have a father.

She tried to abort me, but wasn’t able to. She abused me physically, emotionally, spiritually, and sexually. When I tried to commit suicide at 11 and 12, she laughed and encouraged me to try again. 

But I never did, because at 12 years old, God begun calling my name.

My mother taught me that the purpose of my life was to be a mother and a wife. She did everything she could to stop me from being creative, drawing, painting, writing, sewing, knitting, and instead, she persuaded me that I was worthless, stupid, ugly, and not good for anything but sex.

I was diagnosed with sexual addiction in 2014.  It was the year I gave my life to Christ and was baptized in front of 3,000 people at Buckhead Church.

I wrote this poem about my journey.


"Identity" #PoemsFromGod

When I was five years old, my mama told me
That I was born to be a mother and a wife.
I was taught how to make men want me
And that sex was the best key to my best life. 

When at six years old I strived to study,
Mama told me that instead I needed men,
That their focus of attention was my body
And I’d better master sex to live in zen.

When at 15, graduating with high honor,
I left school to go to college and to work,
Mama told me that my wasteful life her bothers,
That my oddity and fancy were a quirk.

When at 19, graduating with high honors, 
After college, I went on to Busines School,
Mama told me I was crazy and went bonkers,
She was hateful, she was violent, she was cruel.

At 24 I graduated with high honors 
From two good schools with two degrees in law and business. 
I mastered also sex and men to meet my mothers
Expectations and demands for my life’s richness.

I got married to Prince Charming and left Russia.
And I strived to be a mother and a wife.
Domestic Violence was my marriage daily crushing.
I had to run away to save my life.

When police took me away to homeless shelter,
I was crushed, I was confused, I was in pain.
In a foreign country I life entered.
To survive, I had to daily use my brain.

Within 18 months, I learned the language
And I passed the Academic English Test.
As an immigrant, I had a disadvantage, 
So I went to school to prove my best.

MBA from GSU was good decision,
Only mama was still living in my head.
She continued my identity collision:
To be mother, to be wife, or stay unwed?

Mama’s voice remained the strongest, so I married.
He was doctor. I was student. We had kids.
Her ideas of myself I always carried:
I’m for men and I’m for sex. Mom’s voice mine beats. 

When I got my MBA and started working,
That second marriage quickly also got dissolved.
As I was hustling a lot and money earning,
My identity and purpose both evolved.

But Mama’s voice was surely ever-lasting: 
You’re for men, you are for sex, you must be wife.
In confusion and in pain my purpose wasting,
I went on to live a very furtive life.

Slept around, drank like crazy, I was sinking.
My identity collision was a burden.
To avoid my pain and life, I was just drinking,
Who I was and whose I was, I was uncertain.

It was April, it was dark, and I was crying.
There was carpet, there were stars, and I was kneeling. 
I was praying - to surrender I was trying.
And that night I did experience deep healing.

I asked Jesus: change my mind and my head’s voices.
I asked Him to lead my life, to guide my journey. 
Ever since my soul is healed and it rejoices.
Mom’s and mine beliefs on life no longer tourney. 

Jesus taught me that I am, in fact, a royal.
Child of God, I am, in fact, King’s Princess.
Ever since, to Him I’m being loyal.
Trusting Him, I am becoming fearless.

Mom’s beliefs and my beliefs no longer matter.
Jesus tells me my life’s purpose and desire.
Single life for me, He says, is better.
His commands today my life inspire.  




Today, I live a single, celibate life that’s filled with creativity and joy:

I published a book of Christian fairytales called How Princess Lana Developed Faith and Fortitude.
I built an Etsy store sharing my original acrylic paintings with the world.
I launched a collection of Christian apparel for women called #52Devotionals  and I wrote over 200 poems, as well as an award-winning goal-setting book.


I have a question for YOU today:

Who has ever defined your identity?
What gave that person the power to define YOU?
To think that they know your potential and future is insanity.
Every day you’re growing, changing, evolving, and becoming new.

No one can define you. Ever. 
Except one person on earth. You.
Commit to exploring who you are. Forever.
Allow your SELF to be different from what anyone ever knew. 


Thank you. 


8/24/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA. All rights reserved.

Toastmasters Membership

My Toastmasters membership was a free gift from Felicia. I could have taken it lightly and never benefited from it. But God placed a fire in my heart. He used Felicia’s gift of membership at Toastmasters International to completely transform my vision of myself as a speaker. God used Toastmasters membership to get me on a global TEDx Marietta Square stage.

Toastmasters changed my life forever. I’m beyond grateful.

Some people use Toastmasters membership as a networking opportunity. Others practice their speaking skills for work or court performances. I’ve seen people leverage membership at Toastmasters International for leadership more than speaking. And I’ve also met members who just show up to hang out because they love the community.

Toastmasters International is a one-of-a-kind community with people from all over the world coming together to better themselves, work on their goals, and to make a difference. It’s a place to grow and improve. Also, it’s a great place to make new friends. I made friends at Toastmasters, and those friendships changed my life. Toastmasters changed my life.

Rising Phoenix Toastmasters

Rising Phoenix Toastmasters is a huge part of how Toastmasters helped me. It is an amazing club. It’s large enough to offer great diversity but intimate enough to provide opportunities for close friendships. It is a very active community of global speakers, which makes the environment of every meeting very competitive, which is excellent for challenging each member to grow. It’s also a fun place where members are not afraid to have a good time. Here’s my wonder woman speech, and you can see my peers dressed up as all kinds of cartoon characters. Too cool!

Rising Phoenix Toastmasters  Club in Marietta - Anna Szabo Wonder Woman

I was asked my Toastmasters International on Facebook to share what I love about my Toastmasters club. I wrote about my 3Cs from the heart. Let me share with you exactly what is so special when it comes to Rising Phoenix. My 3Cs are community, culture, and creativity.

Three Things I Love About Rising Phoenix Toastmasters

  1. Community – I love our people Jeff SheehanRoy GangaBrad SingletonJanice Richards, and many others.
  2. Culture – I love the culture of encouragement to grow and develop yourself.
  3. Creativity – I love how creative our team is with the topics and speeches and technology and costumes and everything else!

Ok, there is something else.

This is something very hard to talk about.

I want to cry when I think this one thing.

And it’s this…

Rising Phoenix Toastmasters members gave me permission to cry as I speak publicly and they provided a platform for me to practice vulnerability.

When I went to the live TEDx audition on January 11th, 2020 and began delivering my idea presentation speech, I also began to cry.

The reason why crying didn’t stop me from sharing my idea and becoming a TEDx speaker was that I had an opportunity to become comfortable crying while speaking at Rising Phoenix Toastmasters in 2019.

I’m forever grateful for all my peers who allowed me to be me, to explore my soul as a vulnerable speaker, to discover my speaking wonder-power, and to accept and appreciate my tears when they come as I speak.

Rising Phoenix Toastmasters club rocks.

I’m also very thankful for all my friends there who helped film my speeches, who provided valuable feedback, and who shared their testimonials for me as a speaker, which encouraged me to speak globally and share my message about God despite my fears, insecurities, and self-doubt. Their testimonials propelled me toward my dreams and goals.

Frankly, ALL testimonials I received from Toastmasters International encouraged, empowered, and elevated me as a speaker. I have tears in my eyes as I’m telling you how toastmasters helped me.

I love my experience with these amazing people. Toastmasters membership Felicia gifted me that day became a life-changing, lasting, significant, hugely-impactful gift. Below is some encouragement received from my peers.

Toastmasters Testimonials

Toastmasters Speakers Bureau

A couple of weeks into my Toastmasters membership, I was recommended as a candidate for Toastmasters Speakers Bureau District 44. I applied, was accepted, and was recruited to speak at the District level a few weeks later.

That experience was truly divine for three reasons:

  • I met a new incredible friend who is also now a TEDx speaker at TEDx Marietta Square
  • I also delivered a vulnerable speech about my life story to a very large group of people at a church
  • I got my seven-minute speech was judged by nine people, each of whom stood up and publicly criticized as well as appreciated my speech.

It was an instant growth opportunity for me.

The Speakers Bureau at Toastmasters District 44 is definitely one of the ways how Toastmasters changed my life. Here’s my speaker profile sharing the page with some really awesome people. Also, here’s my story for you so you can see that I went all in on my purpose and my vulnerable message.

Toastmasters Speakers Bureau District 44 - Anna Szabo Christian Speaker
Anna Szabo at Toastmasters Speakers Bureau District 44

Having to write and share detailed information about me as a Christian speaker forced me to think big and go public with my story boldly and my mission as a speaker in God’s kingdom clear and concise.

The experience was like a thinking Bootcamp where I quickly had to embrace my purpose as a Christian speaker and verbalize my story with courage and powerful vulnerability.

That helped me tremendously to get going instead of feeling like I wasn’t ready. The journey led to me being invited to this event where I presented my signature speech called “The Happiness Illusion” which had such an impact on the audience that I was transformed forever as I watched tears roll down people’s faces while they listened to me speak.

Toastmasters Speakers Bureau revealed to me the power of my words, the influence of my ideas, the impact of my emotions, and the value of my mission in God’s kingdom. Being a speaker for Toastmasters Speakers Bureau District 44 encouraged and empowered me to go big and bold with my speaking ministry. That is how toastmasters helped me.

The Benefits of Toastmasters

In my first year at Toastmasters International, I personally experienced the following twelve benefits of Toastmasters. Here’s how Toastmasters helped me.

How Toastmasters Helped Me

  1. I made new friends with people who always grow and improve
  2. I learned more about who I am in God’s kingdom
  3. I witnessed the power of my story and impact of my message
  4. I took my public speaking skills to a more sophisticated level
  5. I overcame the fear of public speaking and accepted my tears
  6. I became comfortable in front of any and every audience
  7. I received encouragement and empowerment from my peers
  8. I got unique exposure as a Christian speaker in Atlanta
  9. I tested my stamina and realized that speaking takes grind
  10. I created my own methodology for memorizing my talks
  11. I produced five incredible speeches that became my portfolio
  12. I landed two Christian speaking gigs and I became a TEDx speaker
The Benefits of Toastmasters   - Anna Szabo of Online Discipleship for Women

How Toastmasters Helped Me Become a TEDx Speaker

Want to know how Toastmasters helped me land a TEDx talk?

Toastmasters International provided a platform for me to understand and embrace who I am as a speaker, how I am on stage, why I speak, who my audience is, and what I am communicating to my audience.

Toastmasters allowed me to become comfortable interacting with all audiences: any age, any profession, any social status, any nationality, literally, it helped me become comfortable speaking anywhere, any time.

Toastmasters speaking practices and learning to hear from God during my speeches are the reasons why I was ok crying at a live audition for TEDx Marietta Square. I became a TEDx speaker because of God’s plan and calling on my life. God used Toastmasters to prepare and equip me, which led me to a global stage as a TEDx speaker.

How Toastmasters Helped Me Become a TEDx Speaker  - Anna Szabo of Online Discipleship for Women

How Toastmasters Changed My Life

I shared with you how Toastmasters helped me land a TEDx talk.

Toastmasters changed my life because it changed me and my relationships. My Toastmasters journey transformed my vision of myself as a speaker from mere nothingness to a global stage.

How Toastmasters helped me has to do with every aspect of me: my mind, heart, relationships, and aspirations.

The encouragement I received at Toastmasters International empowered me to step out of hiding and into God’s purpose and grow my speaking ministry.

My life changed when I joined Toastmasters because of Felicia Kemp, Brad Singleton, Dolapo Babalola, Jeff Sheehan, Roy Ganga, Janice Richards, Zach Carter, David Kendrick, Maria Rodriguez, and Rebecca Boskovic.

Rebecca and Maria became my sisters. I can’t imagine not having these close relationships that enrich my spiritual, intellectual, and professional life so abundantly. If it weren’t for Toastmasters, I would not have become so friendships-wealthy. Maria and Rebecca are blessings in my life. I thank God and Toastmasters for each of these blessings.

Want to know how Toastmasters helped me?

It made my life better in every way.

How Toastmasters Changed My Life - Anna Szabo a TEDx speaker 2020 at TEDx Marietta Square

My Toastmasters Journey

I shared with you my entire Toastmasters journey: from the conversation with Dawn in June of 2019 where she told me about her vision for my speaking ministry to me becoming a TEDx speaker at TEDx Marietta Square on January 11th, 2020. I wanted to show you my progress in videos, so below are my five Toastmasters speeches which I delivered between 8-24-2019 and 11-16-2019. These videos will help you observe how Toastmasters helped me.

Identity in Christ – My Spiritual Quest Speech

Is God Good? Why Bad Things Happen Speech

Suicide Alleviation via Self-Negotiation Speech

The Wonder-Power of Leadership Speech

The Happiness Illusion Speech

Why You Should Join Toastmasters

You should join Toastmasters if you want to grow personally and professionally. If you love staying in the comfort zone, don’t join Toastmasters.

You’ll benefit from this inspiring community if you have goals and are willing to hustle. If you like things to be easy, don’t bother with Toastmasters.

If you want to meet high achievers, you’ll love Toastmasters. If you prefer laid-back people with no aspirations, avoid Toastmasters.

If you associate progress with happiness, Toastmasters is a happy place for you and you should definitely join: you will make progress there, you will grow, you will develop yourself, you will master new skills, you will meet new people who will encourage you to change, to dream big, and to follow your calling. If that’s your kind of thing, you should join Toastmasters. If you like things to stay the same and you think you’ve reached your full potential already, do not join Toastmasters.

Why you Should Join Toastmasters  - Anna Szabo of Online Discipleship for Women

Frequently Asked Questions I Receive About Toastmasters

What Is Toastmasters?

Toastmasters International is a US-headquartered nonprofit organization that operates educational clubs worldwide for the purpose of promoting public speaking and leadership skills. Founded on October 22, 1924 by Ralph C. Smedley, Toastmasters was aimed at everyday professionals with the goal of helping them enhance their business performance. Throughout its history, Toastmasters has served over four million people. It has 352,000 members today.

How Does Toastmasters Work?


Toastmasters is the name of a brand, so it’s treated as a singular when it references an organization overall. Toastmasters also are members of the Toastmasters community, so when we are talking about people as members, we refer to toastmasters as a plural.

Some people ask: how DO Toastmasters work? It is inaccurate because this question is about the Toastmasters and not toastmasters, meaning the organization of Toastmasters is in question and not its members who are called toastmasters.

So, how does Toastmasters work?

Toastmasters clubs are either restricted or community-based. In certain clubs, non-members (guests) are allowed to participate in table topics to get a feel of the atmosphere of the club. Members pay dues.

Members pay prorated international dues of $45 USD every six months. Some clubs may charge additional fees. All new members also pay a one-time fee of $20 USD.

A Toastmasters meeting is a learn-by-doing workshop in which participants master their public speaking and leadership skills. Members prepare a 7-minute talk. Meeting participants also give impromptu talks on assigned topics (table topics).

Toastmasters curriculum offers various pathways to meet your many professional and personal aspirations for greatness and to prepare you for your future growth.

How Does Toastmasters Help You?

Toastmasters helps you learn and practice public speaking and leadership skills, as well as offers networking opportunities.

How Has Toastmasters Changed Your Life?

Toastmasters changed my life by preparing me to become a TEDx speaker in only 17 weeks. It’s a dream come true.

How Has Toastmasters Helped Your Career?

Toastmasters helped my career by allowing me to master my public speaking and leadership skills, to build my speaking portfolio, and to get unique exposure as a Christian speaker in Atlanta.

Why Should I Join Toastmasters?

You should join Toastmasters if you want to grow, meet new friends, learn helpful skills, and make progress personally and professionally.

how toastmasters helped me land a TEDx talk - Anna szabo

Summary

In this article, I shared with you my life story, my speaking aspirations, and how Toastmasters helped me land a TEDx talk. You can attend TEDx Marietta Square as a guest by purchasing your ticket here. The event will be held on September 19th, 2020 all day.

I help women see themselves the way God sees them.

In the last few years, I’ve personally been on a quest to figuring out and conquering the negative voices in my head that distort my understanding of who I am. I call those voices the Shitty Committee, and each of us has that special committee in our headspace.

I’ve specifically been focusing on my identity in Christ.

From the Bible, I discovered 52 incredibly-positive things God says about us as His children. Those 52 precious discoveries turned into 52 Biblical affirmations I created to encourage and empower Christian women.

To help share this life-changing information with you, I created an ebook called #52Devotionals. Download it now for free.

My free ebook helps you understand who God says you are. Don’t be vulnerable to identity attacks from the mainstream media, relatives, coworkers, your boss, society, culture, and the voices in your head.

Stand firm and know what God says about you.

Anna Szabo Ebook Devotionals for Women #52Devotionals

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