It has been a long time since I have written about Toastmasters on my blog. However in the last month I have run across ten people who have asked me (directly or indirectly) about how to improve their public speaking skills. There is not better answer to that question that getting involved with a Toastmasters Club.
Toastmasters was founded in 1924 and now has clubs in 106 countries. A local club becomes a friendly and familiar place for people from any profession to come together to learn and practice speaking to an audience. Like many things in life, speaking is a learned skill. We see great orators and falsely think they were born with the "Gift of Gab". The reality is most of the "Great Ones" have worked hard to fine tune their craft.
As a professional speaker who regularly addresses corporate audiences I hopefully have some knowledge on this subject. I have already presented forty-three keynote-style (45 minutes or longer) presentations to corporate, law firm and association audiences in 2010. Each time I try to learn something new. I never give a "canned" talk, but instead customize and personalize each speech. This makes every time on stage an educational experience for me and the audience.
I am sad when those who want to be better speakers never take the stage. Remember: Speakers Speak! They don't think about speaking, wish they were better, or ponder their belly buttons.
I make it a habit to observe. Every time I have the honor to be in an audience I watch closely every thing that a speaker does. This means watching the style, delivery, vocal skills, stage presence, gestures, and poise of both professional speakers and professionals who speak. Each time I am the one listening I am self-enrolled in speakers college. No matter who is on stage I can learn from them. You should do the same thing. Study speakers, don't just listen.
I have also written a small book on the subject - The ABC's of Speaking. This book is a tip guide to help people who do not necessarily desire to be professional speakers, but who find they must occasionally give presentations. Many want to be better when talking to groups, but are intimidated by the whole process.
Having been a member of Toastmasters International since 1992 I have seen countless people, at all different skill levels, discover ways to improve their public speaking skills.
I still participate in my local club from time to time (my travel schedule prevents me from being a regular attendee). I am often asked why, as a professional speaker, I keep my membership with Toastmasters? The reason is you are never too good to learn, and when you help teach others, you improve too. Those who have climbed the ladder have a God-given responsibility to assist others who are working to improve their own skills. The "best" Toastmasters Clubs have both newcomers and seasoned Toastmasters as members.
If you have read this whole post and you are thinking "Yes, I should join a Toastmasters Club!".... then do it. There are most likely several clubs in your area. Check out two or three and find the one that is best for you based on location, time of meetings, and personality of the members.
Good luck and let me know how it goes!
Have A Great Day.