“Unless you plan to settle in a deserted island, communication is important.”
Not sure, who said this, but when I think of it, it is so very true. Individuals are single entities, like islands and communication helps us to make relationships. Communication is probably the first thing that we learn in life, but it becomes one of the most difficult things to pursue later. Unfortunately, we get very little public speaking lessons in our traditional academic journey.
As a baby, we first communicate with our mother through our senses- eyes, touch and gestures. Spoken words come much later, but becomes the most important mode of communication in our lives.
Since childhood, I have tagged myself as an introvert. I was not that so-called outspoken types. Not that this stopped me from having friends or I was ridiculed, but somewhere I had my own prejudices. These affected my intrinsic self, which sometimes reflected on my extrinsic personality too.
Communication is an Art
Communication is one of the most important art in our lives. It is an art because it is related to your emotions and it comes from your heart.
It gets me thinking, then why some of us find it difficult to express ourselves with this language of the heart?
Why Some Struggle to Communicate?
I guess the inhibition comes from one’s belief that he/she will fail to communicate. And rather than the communication itself, they lack confidence in their internal and external abilities. Actually, the process runs both ways- people feel “I cannot talk fluently, so what will they think of them” and “My physical appearance is not impressive, so better not say anything else they will make fun of me”.
I had similar feelings, but by the time I was in my graduation and post-graduation, I was warned to shed my inhibitions to prepare for my professional career. Not that I was afraid of speaking or I did not know the right words, just that I perceived that I cannot and so did ‘people’.
My Experience with Toastmaster Club
Communication can take different forms, each of which can be mastered in different ways. However, it is important that an individual knows and practices each of them optimally, even if they are not masters of it. Different aspects of communication include written, verbal and non-verbal communication. Listening is also an integral part of communication. Today, I will share my experiences in these forms of communication and how Toastmasters Club helped me to ‘get a hang of them’ in the right way at the right time.
I was first introduced to the Toastmasters Club as a part of my professional career when I joined my first Organization as a fresher. Initially, I thought it might be an obligation to be part of this club in the Organization, but once I started participating, I discovered wonders public speaking lessons through this club, which also helped me enhance my writing skills and of course, my overall personality. It was an amazing experience being a part of this club. The learnings and appreciations I gathered are immense and my contribution was well accepted.
What is Toastmasters Club all about?
You must be wondering, what an unusual name for an Organization, which deals with communication, particularly Public Speaking. Well, my first impression was no different. So, let me briefly tell you a bit about the Organization and what they do.
Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. Their membership is 313,000 strong. Members improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 14,650 clubs in 126 countries that make up their global network of meeting locations. Public speaking lessons one can find in these communities is priceless.
Toastmasters Club provides a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.
The Toastmasters Journey
Toastmasters began as a series of speaking clubs organized by Ralph C. Smedley during his time working for the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in Bloomington, Illinois, United States. As director of education at the YMCA, Smedley saw a need for the men in the community to learn how to speak, conduct meetings, plan programs and work on committees, and he wanted to help them by sharing valuable public speaking lessons.
There are numerous clubs in India and across the world, which are affiliated with the International Toastmasters Club. Many Corporate houses have their own clubs, which acts as a great Employee Engagement and Training option. They operate independently, but all Certifications and Resources are sourced from the main club. All clubs need to be registered with the main club.
The following image explains the roadmap for an individual in a Toastmasters Club:
Image Courtesy: Topnotch Toastmasters
5 Public Speaking Lessons I Learned from Toastmasters Club
I became a part of the InterraIT Toastmasters Club, when I joined the Company in 2007. I would love to share a few valuable lessons in public speaking, I have learned from being a part of Toastmasters Club.
Lesson 1: Know Your Audience –
When you are speaking before an audience, it is important to engage the audience and give them a takeaway in the end so that they remember your action point. In order to do this, it is important to know who sits in front of you. So, use words, phrases, topics and pointers, which is relevant and useful to them.
Lesson 2: Give A Powerful Start –
The start and end are the most important parts. It is very important to relate the two ends to make the audience understand your point of view. My mentor always used to tell me to start with a story or a personal experience because it is important to reach out to the audience with something original. Pick out real life experiences, problems, solutions, which the audience can relate to or things even they might have experienced in their own lives. It might be a good idea to start with a quote, a couple of questions or sometimes a contradictory idea to make the audience accept your point.
Lesson 3: No Apologies –
Sometimes, we see presenters using phrases like ‘I might be a little fast, so please bear with me’ or ‘I did not get time to prepare’, but this might not be a good practice. Rather than sympathizing, the audience might take this as your weakness and find unwanted loopholes. There is no need to highlight any of your incapabilities. Nobody is perfect and everybody knows that. So, it is better to start with a positive note and make up for any shortcomings in between the presentation.
Lesson 4: Take Your Time –
Good presentations and speeches are those, which keeps it crisp and clear. So, prepare well and rehearse before you have to present. Do not rush into points or don’t finish in a hurry at the end. So, it is important to time each and every segment of a speech- the introduction, the body and the ending.
If you are discussing points, keep important points first, then gradually move into the latter ones. Do not rush with the content, so structure it in a way that it is not too lengthy. For example, if you are discussing points, make a strategy to say one line of the story or experience, 2 lines of the problem and a solution, or 2 lines of advantages and 1 line of disadvantage and so on. It depends on the topic chosen, structure of speech and the time allotment.
Give sufficient time to the audience or take the time yourself to absorb an idea by asking probing questions or making a lighter statement. Towards the end, hint when you are going to end, with statements like ‘as we come close to the end’ or ‘to wrap up the earlier discussion’. Allow the audience to pick up the takeaways from your speech.
In case of impromptu speeches on unknown topics (we call it the Table Topics), take a minute to prepare and then start with a flow in mind.
Lesson 5: Correct Your Non Verbal Cues –
Finally, one of the most important things in a verbal communication, which makes the most impact. This is a huge topic in itself, I will just mention a few important ones, which we follow in any Toastmasters meeting.
- First, the Ah-Counter (as we call it); it keeps track of your ahs and ums during a speech, so it is important to ‘consciously’ reduce the number while giving your speech.
- Second, bodily movements should be minimum unless you are ‘acting out’ an idea as it distracts the audience.
- Third, it is important to synchronize the body movements and facial expressions, for example, smiles, nods, affirmations or negations. Ensure the audience relates to your gestures along with your message.
So here is a quick summary that you can Pin and save for future reminder:
Not all of us are pursuing public speaking consciously in our lives, but passively we all practice public speaking in some way or the other. The tips from Toastmasters not only helps in public speaking but also in written communication non-verbal communication as well. Writing speeches was a great start for my current career as a content writer and blogger. It teaches you to be an effective communicator as well as an efficient leader.
Toastmasters not only taught me to be a Competent Communicator, it also motivated me to take leadership roles. Today, I proudly say that I am an Advanced Communicator Bronze and Advanced Leader Bronze, certified by Toastmasters International. Also, I had run the InterraIT Toastmasters Club for almost a year, where I had to wear different hats, to fulfill my dedication and determination.
So, if you are looking for the right tool to polish your public speaking skill, why not give it a try at a Toastmasters Club near you?
Sourav is also planning to groom aspiring public speakers, join the list below if you haven’t already.
And if you really want to improve your communication skill, public speaking skill and just finished reading this post, don’t forget to leave your comments below. I’d love to interact, answer questions and guide you in every way possible.