Have you ever wished that you were a better communicator or more confident in your leadership? I have.
Have you ever been in the audience and felt awful for the presenter, because he or she seemed to be so uncomfortable? I have.
Or, worse, were you ever THAT presenter? I was.
I had given a couple of presentations in front of rooms full of people. They weren’t my best presentations, and I knew it. I also knew that I could and wanted to improve my presentation skills.
We all know, there is a slew of self-help materials that you can consume on improving your communication skills. We can read books, listen to audio, watch videos, maybe participate in a workshop or two. And each time, we’re pumped, because we gleaned some good pointers, useful information, strategies that we know can work for us. We are ready to implement!
Then this happens: We get involved in something else, get side-tracked or just revert to our old patterns, because improving our communication skills is no longer as pressing an issue as the situation we’re dealing with right now. Our good intentions…, well, they’re there, and we’ll be sure to get to them… later. And then nothing ever changes.
People come to Toastmasters for all kinds of reasons: They want to ask for thatpromotion, be the confident (and chosen) job applicant, seal the deal with that new client, make that killer presentation, deliver that memorable toast at their best friend’s wedding, become a more confident team leader, learn how to speak more, or learn how to talk less. Members also come from different backgrounds: students, employees, workers, managers, bosses, entrepreneurs, professionals, consultants, homemakers, retirees. Their ages can be equally disparate. While a club may have a relatively diverse membership, every individual is there to become a better communicator and more confident leader.
When you go to the website of Toastmasters International, you can search for a club within a desired radius of a zip code. There are thousands of clubs around the world. There are company-sponsored and open clubs with various meeting dates and times. Find an open club, check it out and see how the club conducts its meetings and how you like the atmosphere. Determine whether it is an environment where you can learn and hone your skills. You can visit an open club at your convenience and without obligation; you can even go a few times before you decide whether you want to take advantage of the benefits membership offers.
In my opinion, the hands-down, biggest benefit of being a member of Toastmasters is that you get to practice and you grow as you go – at your own pace. Where else can you do this? There are many other benefits: You get instructions and resources that provide the guidance you need. You get to practice extemporaneous speaking at almost every meeting. You can ask and be assigned a mentor. You prepare short speeches and present them to a friendly audience. You receive useful feedback and glean strategies you can implement. You observe and learn from others. You practice listening, evaluating and speaking. Naturally, your skills improve and your confidence increases over time.
Would you agree, the ones that speak with confidence and can deliver an effective message are also the same individuals that are perceived to be leaders? I know that’s what I think when I see someone presenting in front of an audience. Interestingly, I originally became a member of Toastmasters because I wanted to improve my presentation skills. And, while I now know that I can present well in front of large audiences, what I have also found is that I have become a more confident communicator, even in one-on-one or small-group conversations. I know others tell similar stories.
Not everyone envisions themselves as a public speaker in front of audiences. But, if you are not talking to yourself, you are – in effect – speaking publicly. Generally people acknowledge that they could definitely benefit from enhancing their communication skills. So, if you ever thought that you wanted to be a better communicator, check out Toastmasters. There is no downside.