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As published on LinkedIn.com on 05/09/2017

Toastmasters may or may not extend "toasts" or provide the pearls of wisdom to audiences hanging on their every word. In reality, today's Toastmasters are everyday folk who have learned to curb their fears, corral their misgivings and instill positive, affirming energy and structure to their speaking.

When people become active in local Toastmasters clubs, however, it's because they need a little boost (or a big boost), they want to improve and they covet friendly support and a structured improvement program. They might also be seeking opportunities to speak more often.

Reasons people join Toastmasters vary. In most cases, they boil down to two:

The first is the one the world endorses. You're truly scared to speak before a group (or to strangers one-on-one).

Really scared. Knees shake, hands tremble, voice cracks and you can barely speak above a whisper. You may lose your thought process, stumble over words, make a royal mess of it. You are legitimately reluctant to be put in the position of "speaker."

The fear is so great that just walking through the door to a Toastmasters club meeting is an extremely fearful thing to do. Many people who have identified Toastmasters as the place that will help them conquer their fear, never take the step. Others visit a meeting (or several) before they join and commit to the learning, growing process.

Second, you are ALREADY an effective speaker!

You speak regularly for your job; you give presentations; you are the one chosen before others others to address a certain topic, open a meeting, make introductions, teach others. You enjoy speaking and have no fear!

If this is the case, you wonder, why would you need Toastmasters at all?

Maybe my last night's meeting experience will enlighten you.

The speaker had approached the group board several times about speaking. His topic was one of great interest, so we invited him. At the start of the evening, he asked the amount of time he would be expected to speak and was told "twenty minutes followed by Q&A". An hour after he began speaking, the group president interrupted and said there was time for "one more question." The speaker had ignored the group's preferred speaking time.

While the topic was timely and the speaker kept audience attention, the rules were broken and people noticed. Some in attendance had to rush from the meeting to attend to other matters. The presentation planned for the end of the meeting was cut short.

Untrained professionals whose speaking skills are "good" don't always get it!

There is a lot more to effective speaking than speaking!

  • Timing, both the length of the speech and the organized parts of the speech
  • Organization, meaning the material must flow and transitions must be smooth; part one should be in its logical place, part three, the conclusion, etc.
  • Speaking mechanics such as: Pauses, building anticipation, voice, cadence and more. Voice must pull in your audience, reaching those in the last row and those in the front and holding variety in tone and emphasis, and crucial, well placed pauses.
  • Physical presentation, including eye contact and gestures, must support the speech.
  • Emotion and understanding supported by appropriate stories and anecdotes, to help you connect with your audience and make you more believable and credible.

I've barely touched on the assets and tools that help to build the confidence and skill of a Toastmaster, but I can tell you that as a Toastmaster, you'll be using the techniques at every club meeting, whether your assignment is to speak, present impromptu topics, monitor members' grammar or operate the stop watch app. And before you know it, you'll get before the group without hesitation or a catch in your voice, ready to put new leadership and communication skills to work, assured that you are not only a good speaker but you are an effective, credible, admired and sought-after professional presenter.


Find a Toastmasters club convenient to you at: http://toastmasters.org (Use the Find a Club link). It's a worldwide life-impacting self-paced, structured learning program that can only improve your experience and lead to rewards, success, friendships and connections.

PS - Tulsa's Gilcrease Toastmasters (not near Gilcrease!) meets on Wednesdays at 6:15 pm at Martin Regional Library, 2601 S. Garnett Road. Want a daytime club? Visit Riverside Toastmasters, Noon to 1 pm on the Second and Fourth Thursday monthly, at Kaiser Library, 5202 S. Hudson Avenue. Don't be late -- see you there!