Soon after the Division E International Speech Contest in District 38 (Philadelphia area), I had to drop out of Toastmasters for a time because of family and work obligations. (Now you know why I abandoned this blog for three years.) I did finally return in September 2014, although with a different club: Community Toastmasters of Reading. I also wasn’t able to take the roles in Toastmasters like I had until recently. But, now I’m back.
I think the most important lesson I learned from my break is the importance of continued practice in public speaking. When I came back after my three year break, I realized I felt like a brand new Toastmaster. I probably sounded like one, too. I don’t have a job where I speak to groups often (Yet), but my difficulties in getting back into the swing of Toastmasters made me realize how important this organization is to people who’s job it is to give presentations or speeches only one or two times a year. If people with jobs like this were in Toastmasters or had another way to continuously practice their public speaking skills often, they would crush it when it comes to the rear occasion they are called on to speak.
Dale Carnegie Training is a spectacular speaking and leadership coaching company with well-trained instructors who bring their clients insights and skills that are unmatched by anyone that I know of, but the one thing, perhaps the only thing, they lake is a way of providing continuous opportunities to practice. This is where Toastmasters can come in handy for companies, organizations and trainers. Imagine being in a job where you only have to give one or two presentations a year. Without continuous training, since public speaking is nothing like riding a bike, it will be a bit like going out in front of a group for the first time over and over again. With the continuous training of Toastmasters, you will be speaking in front of people up to 26 times besides what you do for work. Under which scenario do you believe you will exude the most confidence and be most effective?
Toastmasters often gets a bad rap, because it is an organization that trains without trained professional coaches. Although this is true, some of the members of Toastmasters International have been members for years and even decades and most of these have made a serious living from speaking publicly. They’ve seen it all. Even without these veteran members, Toastmasters is still a valuable tool, simply because it allows its members to get in front of people and practice, not to mention the leadership opportunities which I will not get into in this post. The practice opportunities by themselves are an extremely valuable attribute. This is why I highly recommend all professionals, especially those who only speak a very few times a year, join Toastmasters and practice.