Every Toastmaster’s journey starts with a single speech.
That’s the message of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Those clubs provide a supportive and positive learning experience to empower members to develop communication and leadership skills.
The benefit of those skills? Greater self-confidence and personal growth.
Cindy Tomlinson, associate manager of Public Relations at TDS Telecom, knows how critical those skills are, which is just why she joined the local Toastmasters club.
“I don’t really have much opportunity to give speeches in my current role, and I know speaking is a critical skill to have, especially as a public relations professional,” she explained.
Public speaking is definitely not for the faint of heart, but that’s precisely why Toastmasters is so helpful. The learn-by-doing environment allows members to move at their own pace by giving regular speeches and receiving valuable peer feedback each time.
For Cindy, having the safe environment for practicing these critical skills is invaluable. She’s been involved in the group for the last five years, and currently serves as the vice president of membership for her local club in Madison, Wisconsin.
“I also get to practice preparing for and leading meetings, making adjustments on the fly, organizing volunteers and ensuring meetings start on time,” she added, noting those skills are critical to her career.
TDS Telecom hosts the meetings of one of Madison’s local clubs, which helps give employees convenient opportunities to get involved. Joe Keyes, a manager of cost analysis at TDS, has been involved with Toastmasters since 1996.
“Many people are fearful of speaking, and Toastmasters helps you channel the energy of that fear into your speech,” Joe said. “Toastmasters helps its members develop their interpersonal communications skills. Face-to-face communication is the richest form of communication, and those who have mastered that skill are better able to become leaders in their respective groups. They can effectively communicate their ideas and give clear, concise directions to those working with them and for them.”
Joe explained that the first level in the Toastmasters program works on basic public speaking skills, like organizing a speech, using gestures and vocal variety, researching a topic and persuading and inspiring the audience. The next level bumps it up a notch with practice on speeches to management, sales speeches and public relations.
“The key to being a very good speaker is practice, and Toastmasters provides a time and a place for that practice,” Joe said.
With TDS as a host of Toastmasters, employees like Cindy, Joe and many others have the opportunity to develop and practice their speaking skills in a friendly setting in their own workplace.
And as they say, Joe remarked, practice makes perfect.