I ran into a fellow toastmaster on the weekend. Toastmasters is a non-profit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills. Meeting her brought me back to a time when organizing club contests and weekly meetings, encouraging others to speak, writing speeches and yes, giving speeches was the norm for me. But most importantly, it was a time in my life when I had never felt more confident as a speaker. She reminded me of the difference that Toastmasters had made in her professional life, by allowing her to become a better speaker, increasing her confidence level and allowing her to now lead a team at work.
At times we may feel stuck in our careers, perhaps not climbing the ladder of success fast enough or not getting selected for the management/executive positions that we are hoping for. But are we sabotaging our own success? Here is what I and many others have learnt from Toastmasters:
- How to become a more confident speaker - the majority of people that I have met at Toastmasters share a common reason for joining. They are required to make presentations at work, lead a team or prepare to speak at a big event and would like to be more confident and competent. Whatever the reason, Toastmasters achieves this, by providing its members with a safe and non-judgemental environment that allows them to practice speaking in front of an audience, make mistakes, receive feedback and grow; thus making them more confident.
- How to build a network - Toastmasters provides an opportunity at every meeting or event to meet people; a wide range of professionals from diverse cultural backgrounds and professions. Not only is there an opportunity to strength your networking skills but to also increase your professional and personal networks.
- How to be a leader - there are a range of roles including VP of Education, Public Relations, Mentorship, President, Secretary to name a few, which help to cultivate one’s leadership skills. My greatest experience within Toastmasters was serving as VP of Education; an experience which helped me to improve my organizational, conflict resolution, time management, leadership, relationship building and of course communication skills.
- Attend meetings regularly
- Be part of the executive team
- Schedule a speech; at least once a month or more often if possible. Have a speech ready in case someone cancels
- Learn to accept and appreciate feedback
- Learn to give feedback
- Always be willing to help and never back down on an opportunity to speak