7 tips to improve your public speaking with Toastmasters

Public speaking Toastmasters - Photo by charles-deluvio-wn7dOzUh3Rs-unsplash
Public speaking Toastmasters – Photo by charles-deluvio-wn7dOzUh3Rs-unsplash

I always say that if you want to ‘stand out’, you have to ‘stand up’. What does that mean? It means that your ability to comfortably and eloquently present your thoughts to others is an essential skill. Standing up to speak is going to help you to ‘stand out’ or separate yourself from the people who have something to say but don’t trust themselves to say it. If you are someone (like me) who makes a living from delivering workshops, training programs and other learning experiences, then learning to speak confidently in public is non-negotiable.

“As a trainer or facilitator, learning to speak in public is non-negotiable…”

So what stops many people from mastering this professional skill? Maybe it’s the fear of judgment that prevents you from stepping out of your comfort zone and stepping up in front of people. I know exactly what you mean.

The prospect of multiple pairs of eyes staring at you can be enough to get your stomach churning. Amy Cuddy, Social Psychologist and author of Presence – Bringing your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges refers to these moments as ‘Evaluative Situations’. Even the most experienced speakers frequently feel a sense of what she calls impostor syndrome.

Make mistakes and get feedback

So how wonderful would it be if you had a place to make mistakes, practice, get feedback and accelerate your public speaking skills? Wouldn’t it be great if you could do all of this together with other people in your situation? People who wouldn’t mind if you’d forgotten your main points or if you had messed up your introduction for the eight time in a row? An environment where you could be free from the tyranny of ‘evaluative situations’. A place where everyone wants to support your speaking efforts. There is such a place. And there is more than likely one very near you.

“Everyone at toastmasters wants to support you and see you succeed…”

Master public speaking with others

Welcome to Toastmasters International – a public speaking organization with clubs across the world to help people like you and me to become confident communicators and speakers. Ralph Smedley started Toastmasters in Illinois in the USA back in 1924. Today, there are more than 364,000 members in 16200+ clubs across 145 countries across the world. I am passionately involved with one of the more than 50 Toastmasters clubs in my home city of Mumbai in India.

The motto of every Toastmasters club is to provide a supportive and encouraging learning environment to all its members. That means that you can feel safe ‘stepping up’ to speak. Toastmasters uses a self-paced learning methodology. This means that you can learn as you can go. Most importantly, you can begin to let go of all the “what ifs” in your head: What if I forget what to say? What if people make fun of me? What if I don’t do well? Don’t worry. You are in good hands and can learn to speak confidently in a safe and supportive environment.

Let go of all the 'what ifs' in your head and learn to speak confidently @Suman_Kher TWEET THIS

How does Toastmasters work?

At your first Toastmasters meeting, you will realise that there is no designated teacher or instructor. Each member of your club is either speaking or fulfilling one of several different roles. These roles are there to help make your meeting a success and to help you develop your leadership skills. For example, one of the roles is to keep time when you are speaking. Another role is to note down the number of times you say ‘..ahhhh’ or ‘ummmm’. It’s amazing how fast you will learn when people in these roles give you feedback about things you are not even aware of.

LEARN MORE: Listen now to 5 times TED Speaker and best-selling author Julian Treasure give you a masterclass on how to speak so people want to listen to you

7 tips for toastmasters success

  1. Choose your path
  2. Attend all meetings
  3. Take on a role
  4. Find a mentor
  5. Get on stage
  6. Learn from feedback
  7. Have some fun

1. Choose your path

Pathways is the new education program for members, which has 11 specialised learning paths to choose from. From leadership to conflict resolution to communication styles, you can pick the exact competencies that you wish to develop. As you deliver speeches aimed at specific competencies, you will get to practice them and master them.

Action point – Select the comunication competency that you want to develop

2. Attend all meetings

Toastmasters isn’t just about speaking skills. Members need to take up different roles to run each meeting smoothly. Even if you attend meetings as a passive observer initially, you will learn a lot. Consistency is the key to get better at anything. You want people to turn up to your training sessions and workshops so you need to keep your commitment to your fellow club members by attending all (or as many as possible) meetings.

Action point – Find a club in your area that suits your schedule

Consistency is the key to get better at anything and that includes public speaking @Suman_Kher TWEET THIS

3. Take up roles

Once you become comfortable with how the meetings are run, you should volunteer to take up one of the seven different roles. These roles aren’t difficult and they can be rotated to suit everyone’s preferences. As mentioned above, the roles are going to help you develop skills and they are going to give you the opportunity to give back to the other members of your club.

Action point – Agree to take on a role so you can help your club success

4. Find a mentor

Every club has experienced members who are happy to help you find your way. My mentor helped me understand how to to write a speech so that it fits the time limit. He also helped me practice it to ensure that my natural rate of speech can smoothly deliver my content. That was extremely helpful. Talk to the members in your club and feel free to seek advice. Having someone teach you the ropes makes the journey a lot easier.

Action point – Decide to ask for help from someone who can guide you

5. Get on stage

A Toastmasters meeting is exactly the place where you should take the stage at every possible opportunity. Whether it is as a role-bearer or a speaker in the table topics round (impromptu speaking round). Volunteering to speak at every opportunity is going to accelerate your learning and performance. Get up on stage. Take risks. Be prepared to make mistakes and to try, try, try again. That’s exactly what you expect from your training clients, isn’t it?

Action point – It’s your time to shine, so deliver your first talk to get feedback

6. Learn from feedback

Every member who delivers a speech from the education program has an evaluator assigned before the speech. The job of the evaluator is to understand the speech objectives and give feedback in the evaluation round. The evaluation includes both – the things well done and recommendations for improvement. You only grow through constant feedback. As a trainer, coach and facilitator, you already know this, right?

Action point – Always ask for feedback and make a committment to learn

You only grow through consistent feedback. As a trainer, coach and facilitator, you already know this… @Suman_Kher TWEET THIS

7. Have some fun

You are investing your time when you commit to Toastmasters. You have a business reason for learning to improve your communication skills. But that does not mean that you shouldn’t have fun. You’re going to meet lots of people and you’re going to make lots of mistakes so do you need to be relaxed about that. When you are training or developing people, do you want them to have a sense of fun and accomplishment. The same is true for you.

Action point – Keep a journal of your progress and reward yourself! Well done!

Final thoughts

Toastmasters is not just for beginners. It’s for people at all stages of the journey. You will meet experts and you will meet people who are learning to speak in public for the very first time. Eliminate any thought that Toastmasters is ‘not for me’.

I am an experienced trainer and have been training and coaching for years. However, there is always a need for improvement. You and I can always learn to be better communicators. We all have blindspots, particularly when we’ve been doing the same thing for years.

Another point to consider is the fact that Toastmasters is a worldwide network. This means that you might find clients you can work with or even people who can recommend you to companies who need your services. It’s really important to keep an open mind.

I have learnt so much by being part of Toastmasters and I’m confident that you are going to as well. As business owners, we need to take advantage of every opportunity to improve our communication skills. To me, Toastmasters is one of the best ways you can do it.

Helpful Resources

TrainingBusiness is supported by readers like you. If you decide to buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at ZERO additional cost to you. Thanks!

Presence – Amy Cuddy’s amazing book to help you overcome nerves
Toastmasters – Check out which clubs are near you
How to be heard – 5 x times expert speaker Julian Treasure’s book on speaking
Suman Kher – My business training website to help people with soft skills

Are you convinced? What are your thoughts? Share them below!

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