Public speaking skills are the hallmark of many successful leaders, managers, executives and entrepreneurs. Yet, the practice fills many people with fear and uncertainty. It doesn’t have to be that way! Learn how to rapidly develop your confidence and competence in public speaking with Toastmasters.
Key Facts About Public Speaking and ToastMasters
- Many members of Toastmasters are highly educated (39% have a Bachelor’s degree) an earn high incomes – 47% earn $75,000 US in income or more. (source: Toastmasters Demographics 2013 Member Survey Results)
- Public speaking anxiety and anxiety can be traced to our ancestors who feared being noticed by predators (source: Psychology Today)
- Warren Buffet, the highly successful investor and manager, considers communication skills to be the single most important skillset to develop. (source: Warren Buffett’s $100,000 Offer and $500,000 Advice for Columbia Business School Students, CNBC)
- 70% of employed Americans consider public speaking skills essential to career success (source: Forbes)
- Public speaking is considered one of the top five most desirable skills to get hired fast in 2015 (source: Five in-demand skills you probably already have that can get you hired fast, Workopolis)
Given the challenges and benefits of Toastmasters, you might think that membership is highly expensive. At the time of this writing, an annual membership costs less than $100. Compared to many other organizations, that is a bargain! Affordability is only one reason to consider Toastmasters. The organization’s educational materials and supportive culture are also very helpful. The opportunity to give short speeches and presentations surrounded by people who give you encouragement and useful feedback is one of the top benefits of participating in Toastmasters.
My Toastmasters Experience
Several years ago, I joined a company sponsored Toastmasters club. I joined the club because I wanted to develop my skills and expand my internal network at the company. The club I joined had been in service for over ten years. That long history meant a robust leadership – every leadership role was filled. Even better, average attendance at club meetings was a dozen people or more. The club staff did good work in welcoming both as a guest and a new member. Over the course of a year, I gave ten speeches and completed the Competent Communication program. A few years later, I still remember two speeches with pride: a speech about a successful negotiation I led with my Internet service provider and one about what I learned from the book Decisive.
How To Develop Your Career With Toastmasters in 6 Steps
As the research at the top of this article shows, there are many benefits to developing your public speaking and presentation skills. While you can study presentation technique to a degree by reading books and observing great presenters, there is no substitute for personal experience. Use this process to build your public speaking skills.
1. Locate A Club Near You
Many cities and towns have multiple Toastmasters clubs so you are likely to find a club that suits your location and schedule needs. In fact, many Fortune 500 companies have in-house ToastMasters clubs including Apple, Disney, Google, Microsoft, and Bank of America. I joined a corporate club and had a great experience but that is certainly not your only option. For example, the New York City area has over 200 clubs (the majority of these are open clubs that anybody can join). Over in the UK, London has approximately 60 clubs. San Francisco, CA has over 100 clubs.
Tip: Use the Find A Club tool on the Toastmasters International website to locate in your areas. You can also use the search tool to find clubs that with meetings that suit your calendar (e.g. find clubs that meet on Saturdays).
2. Attend A Club Meeting As A Guest
Most Toastmasters clubs permit guests to visit their clubs once or twice as a guest. As a guest, you have the opportunity to see the club in action, meet members and talk with the club’s leaders. If you are looking into several clubs, I recommend attending two sessions to gain a better understanding of how they work.
Tip: Ask a club leader about the club’s history and any special events coming up. For example, the area may have a humorous speech competition coming up – a fun way to develop your speaking skills.
3. Join A Club
If the club makes a good impression, it is time to join! You can join Toastmasters online or speak with one of the club’s leaders to confirm the process. If you are unsure about whether the organization is for you, membership is generally offered on a six month basis.
4. Deliver A “Table Topics” Speech
Many Toastmasters clubs encourage their members to deliver short (60 seconds or less) remarks during meetings. These short speeches are designed to help you think on your feet as you only have a minute or so to prepare. Delivering one of these speeches is a great way to get your feet wet.
5. Obtain the “Competent Communicator” Manual
Toastmasters offers a range of manuals and programs to help people develop communication and leadership skills. An excellent entry point is the Competent Communicator manual (your club may provide you with a free copy – ask the club before you buy your own). With this educational program, you will deliver ten speeches to your club. Each speech is a project that develops different speaking skills. Some of the skills you will learn include research, speech organization, vocal variety and using visual aids.
Tip: Review Toastmasters Speech Series: Your Guide to the First 10 Speeches by Andrew Dlugan for an introduction to the Competent Communicator program.
6. Deliver Your First Speech
Why not speak about your career development and lessons learned? You could also give a speech about stress management techniques. Remember to practice your speech at home a few times before you speak at the club.
Tip: Feedback on your speaking is a key benefit of Toastmasters. Look for specific feedback you can use to improve your speaking.
Further Reading and Resources For Public Speaking
Public speaking and communication skills have been the subject of study and analysis by many experts. Here are a few additional resources you can use to build up your skills. For the best results, put these ideas into action with actual presentations.
- Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo. TED speakers are widely admired for their ability to deliver presentations that attract global attention. In this book, Gallo explains the frameworks and techniques used by top speakers.
- The Most popular TED Presentations of All Time. These TED presentations demonstrate outstanding skill in creating memorable and engaging presentations on many topics including creativity, leadership and motivation. TED speakers like Hans Rosling show that statistics and demographic data can be presented in a highly engaging way in his presentation, “The best stats you’ve ever seen.”
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