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Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Table


I wrote the following for our Toastmasters club's ill-fated newsletter when I was president:
Nowadays social media is everywhere.  Social media has gone from a buzzword to a ubiquitous personal tool.  You can join MySpace, or Facebook for friend and family online social contacts.  Professionals can join Linked In, and research scientists can even join Epernicus.  You can share videos on YouTube or Stickam, and keep everybody up to the minute with your activities, no matter how trivial, via Twitter.  When you’re not at your computer, you can maintain contact from your mobile phone while grocery shopping or buying shoes.  If you want more personal contact, you can send an IM to your spouse, or, if you’re single, even invite a significant other on a date. 
While we marvel at how technology has increased our connectedness, we tend to forget the greatest innovation in social contact in human history:  the invention of the table.
It was the table that first allowed people to come together as a group to share with one another.  The table has taken many forms over the millennia, from a spot cleared on the ground, to a flat rock, a simple wooden structure, to the modern mahogany conference table (which probably includes electrical and Ethernet connectivity built in also.)  The epitome of the table might be the fabled Round Table of King Arthur’s  Camelot.  In any case, the table was, and still is, the place people gather around to share and to talk. 
Ultimately, every important personal connection happens face to face, using speech.  Your Twitter feed and Facebook updates are nothing compared to an actual conversation where people talk to each other.  You can send e-mails all day long among colleagues at work, but the important work happens when people gather around that table to talk.  Have you ever had a formal job interview by IM?  Have you ever gone on a date via an e-mail exchange?  Of course not. 
The art of talking, of speaking well, is not a dying art despite the onslaught of electronic social media.  It is alive and well through the necessity imparted by human nature.  Our important communications and relationships occur through the act of speaking.  Toastmasters have recognized that since the inception of Toastmasters International in 1924.  Although we tend to view Toastmasters as a club where people give speeches, the organization is actually devoted to empowering people to achieve effective oral communications of all types, and to improve speaking, listening and thinking skills.  These are all important skills in the real world to foster personal success, human understanding and the betterment of society. 
When you’re ready to step beyond the social media and improve your skills in a society of real, speaking people, let us know.  We’re here to help.

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