If you are looking for a means in which to practice your presentation skills in front of an audience on a weekly basis, then you should consider joining Toastmasters. According to Wikipedia, “Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills.”
There are a lot of reasons that I find this organization of value.
1. It is inexpensive to be a member.
2. Its members all share the same goal.
3. It offers weekly or biweekly oral practice for you.
4. You can probably find one close to where you live or work because Toastmasters has thousands of clubs located throughout the world.
5. It allows you to work on various types of presentations including the informative, persuasive and impromptu.
6. It improves your listening skills.
7. It builds confidence.
There is one thing you should take into consideration, however, if you choose to go this route. Often, those who have been in Toastmasters begin to sound alike. What I mean by this is that individuality often suffers at the hands of those who judge.
As one who has taught public speaking at the college and graduate school levels and works with corporations and group workshops as well, I can spot a Toastmaster every time they present. I call it the Toastmaster sound.
What I find lacking with Toastmasters is the marvelous individuality that one should always keep in public speaking. Too often its members, in striving to deliver a better speech or presentation, imitate the style of its other members. What makes for great public speaking are those who treat their audience as if in conversation and are, first and foremost, themselves.
In teaching public speaking, occasionally I would have a student deliver a tremendous presentation and yet do something wrong. I gave the student a high mark, however, because he captured our attention and mesmerized the class throughout. Maybe the layout was not precisely as it should have been. Perhaps the closing was not as strong as it could have been. What mattered was that this person did not try to be someone other than himself. He treated us as if he were having a conversation at the dining room table.
By all means take advantage of the wonderful benefits Toastmasters has to offer but never sacrifice your individuality. Your audience doesn’t want to listen to a Mini-Toastmaster: they want to listen to you.
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information on upcoming workshops, visit Voice Dynamic.