Toastmasters – A Diamond in the Rough
I recently had the chance to make several presentations at Gartner’s annual Symposium - the kind where you stand on a stage and look out over a lot of people . While I am no stranger to public speaking, and have been consistently rated highly in that area, I still wanted to make extra sure my performance was up to the high standards the company expects of its speakers. Our clients invest their time and money to attend our conferences, and effective content development and delivery is a big part of the value they gain from attending. So, to take my speaking skills to the next level, I found this diamond in the rough that I had passed over several times in my career. I first got the idea a year ago when I attended Gartner’s boot camp for new Analysts. We spent an entire day on presentation skills and when I asked one of our coaches how he became so proficient in speaking, his answer was Toastmasters. Toastmasters? I certainly had heard of the organization. Most of the companies I worked for in the past had a chapter and several of my direct reports attended to help their speaking skills. Unfortunately, I thought myself too good for that group, as I was a Director/Vice President and making on average one presentation a week, especially in my last job. Shame on me for being arrogant and close-minded. Now that I worked from home and didn’t make so many presentations, I set out to change this flawed attitude. I found a local club and attended a few meetings. They were (are) a well organized, committed and welcoming group of people. I promptly joined and have been a member for over 6 months. We meet for 2 hours every other Tuesday and I love it. I get to practice my extemporaneous speaking and write/deliver ten different speeches in the course of a year to earn a certificate called the Competent Communicator. In our club, members play a variety of roles, from providing the word of the day to evaluating speakers to telling a joke. All roles and all speaking opportunities provide practice – which is what our Gartner coach was trying to tell me. I am hooked. My presentations last week went great. I felt like the extra speaking practice I had in Toastmasters really made a difference. So, if you are interested in improving your public speaking skills, no matter your skill level, I encourage you to check out Toastmasters. Use this link to find a local chapter http://www.toastmasters.org/. Attend a few meetings and give it a shot. Don’t pass this diamond in the rough.