At face value, Toastmasters is an educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs.
But on a more personal level, being a member of Toastmasters provides an ongoing opportunity to grow my skills in a host of ways that have a direct impact on improving my career. And, as a business owner, the skills, benefits, and connections gained from being a member have been invaluable to my business’s growth.
Toastmasters Benefits and Skills
People join Toastmasters for a variety of reasons, but at its core, Toastmasters is a public speaking organization. It’s been my experience that people become interested in Toastmasters for two main reasons:
- They are scared of public speaking, and want to find a supportive environment to help them get over their fears.
- They like public speaking and want to be a part of a group that helps them grow their speaking skills.
But, regardless of why they became interested, most discover that the Toastmasters experience offers many benefits including:
- Project Management
- Time Management
Every Toastmasters meeting is broken up into three main sections:
- Featured speakers — prepared speeches based on projects in Pathways (see below)
- Table topics — impromptu speeches
- Evaluations — shorter speeches formally evaluating the featured speeches
The featured speaking slots provide an opportunity to provide speeches introducing new speakers from a basic icebreaker speech to advanced speaking projects. All projects are focused around the individual speaker’s skill level, and all speaking projects are focused on growing and building new workplace and communication skills.
Table Topics, the impromptu speaking section, calls upon members to answer a random question with a 1-2-minute speech. Mastering this difficult skill is a huge help for all aspects of your career and the workplace. Improving these skills can help you interview and be interviewed, can help you ask and answer questions with salespeople, can help you mingle at networking events, and can help you learn how to gracefully change a touchy subject.
Every prepared speaker is assigned an evaluator. This role is designed to offer feedback to the speaker. The evaluator gives an impromptu speech outlining the techniques that the speaker used and gives constructive feedback for continued improvement.
Evaluation is one of the hardest things to do in a Toastmasters meeting; however, mastering this role can help you tremendously in the workplace. Becoming an effective speech evaluator offers transferable skills to positively evaluate and coach your team to success.
Toastmasters has a huge focus on leadership growth which is emphasized in weekly meetings and in the leadership officer roles.
Each weekly meeting is guided by the Toastmaster, who is the master of ceremonies for the meeting.
Prior to the meeting, the Toastmaster has the responsibility of getting the meeting organized. The duties include choosing the theme of the meeting, assigning the various roles to the members, and publicizing the event.
During the meeting, the Toastmaster introduces all of the segments of the meeting, introduces the speakers, and keeps the timing of the meeting on track.
Learning to master this role gives you the skills to manage any kind of meeting, and teaches you how to time the elements of a meeting to keep the entire event on track as well as how to maintain grace under pressure.
Leadership opportunities are also presented and encouraged through club, district, and division officers. Each Toastmasters club has a slate of officers that oversee the ongoing management and growth of the club. These roles have workplace equivalent skills:
- Club President — Manager
- Vice President Education — Human Resources
- Vice President Membership — Sales
- Vice President Public Relations — Marketing
- Treasurer — Finance
- Club Secretary — Administration
- Sergeant-at-Arms — Facilities Manager
The benefits of mentoring can be invaluable. I myself never had a career mentor, nor ever sought one out until I joined my club. Toastmasters teaches the value of mentoring and demonstrates the positive impact it can have within the club and in your career.
Mentoring is a key tenant of the Toastmasters program.
- New members are mentored
- New leadership roles are mentored
- Speech competitors are mentored
- Anyone, even experienced Toastmasters, might want mentoring on a particular topic, and other Toastmasters are always happy to help.
Mentoring is as valuable for the mentor as it is for the mentee because when you teach, you learn. When you become an effective Toastmasters mentor, you learn to apply these skills to your workplace team as well.
Toastmasters provides the opportunity to work on networking in a small and supportive environment. So many other members are drawn from the local business community. My club connections have evolved into a variety of business relationships including ongoing clients, business evangelist, LinkedIn connections, and CycleWerx team members.
Every role in a Toastmasters meeting is a project in itself. Before each meeting, the members must prepare to carry out their assigned duties.
The meeting’s Toastmaster has one of the largest project management roles in orchestrating the meeting. This requires a lot of advance work and planning, as detailed above.
Many of the Pathways projects (discussed below) have a large focus on project management.
Time management is vital to a Toastmasters meeting. The members have busy lives, and if the meetings run late, it might affect membership. In order to start and then stop the meeting on time, effective time management must be employed.
The Toastmaster of the week, with the help of the club officers, works hard to arrange the packed weekly agenda. If one segment is scheduled to go long, another segment must be shortened to accommodate the time. All members must be notified if their allotted time has been changed. The meeting’s Toastmaster is charged with keeping the meeting on time.
|After 25 years in the workplace, what struck me the most in my first couple of Toastmaster meetings was just how tight the meeting agenda was stuck to — moving forward and staying completely on time with so many parts in play. Not once had I ever been in a meeting in the corporate environment that was so well organized!
Toastmasters members have commented that learning to time the Toastmasters meetings have greatly improved their ability to manage the timing of their business meetings, which in turn improves the efficiency of their operations.
Most people are terrified to give a speech. Speaking in public is scary. Evaluation is intimidating. Impromptu speaking is terrifying, and leadership is overwhelming.
However, in time, most Toastmasters develop confidence that they never knew they were capable of. They develop their own style of speaking, their own methods for evaluation, and their own techniques for impromptu speaking. Leadership is, in fact, not overwhelming at all. With forethought, organization, and teamwork, every task can be done well.
What makes Toastmasters different from other business development programs is that it is a workshop rather than a lecture series. At every meeting, each member has some kind of speaking role. At every meeting, members can observe others to see how different roles can be conducted. At every meeting, whether directly or indirectly, the members mentor each other on how to speak, how to lead, and how to develop confidence.
You can’t get this kind of experience from reading a book or listening to a lecture. You get this experience from actually attending a Toastmasters meeting.
I love that Toastmasters provides a very structured learning environment. All members have access to the Pathways learning experience, which is Toastmasters' educational program. This online learning tool allows you to leverage over 300 practical workplace skills, including:
- Online meeting preparation
- Project management
- Leadership development
- Interview preparation
- Conflict management
- And so much more.
The current Pathways program I’ve been working on has projects involving:
- Effective use of presentation software
- Managing online meetings
- Managing a difficult audience
- Building a social media presence
- Moderating a panel discussion
The Toastmasters Pathways program is amazing, and best of all you are not completing this on your own — your entire club supports and encourages you along the way.
Toastmasters Promotes Business Growth
I’ve been a Toastmasters member for several years now. I currently serve as my club’s VP Public Relations which allows me to share my marketing knowledge for the betterment of my club. I’ve also mentored other members to serve in that role, teaching valuable marketing skills and giving other members an opportunity to flourish.
If growing your business is paramount, don't overlook the people skills that help your sales and marketing efforts shine. Improving your team's confidence, communication capabilities, project management, time management, and leadership skills has the power to make a huge difference to the growth of your business.
I want to see other small businesses succeed and grow, and that is why I am sharing the information on Toastmasters.
For more information on Toastmasters, check out Toastmasters International or find a club to visit. Note that during the Covid pandemic most clubs are online — which does not detract from the learning experience.
And, you are always welcome to visit my club, Keller Communicators, or follow Keller Communicators on LinkedIn.
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