This month our posting by Mahtot Gebresselassie of Outlier Plan focuses on how Toastmasters, a leading communications and leadership skills program that can help you become a better communicator. One of the services Outlier Plan provides is facilitation, which requires advanced skills of communications. Happy reading! The late actor George Jessel once said, “The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public”. A lot of people would agree with that statement as the fear of public speaking plagues a significant percentage of the population. Perhaps you are one of those who suffer from it and worry that it could impact their career and entrepreneurial pursuits in selling yourself and your ideas. As an entrepreneur though you probably believe that there is a solution for every problem. You would not be wrong! There are a number of trainings and workshops to help you conquer the irrational dread that is Glossophobia or fear of public speaking. In this post I would like to share a few things about the training that helped me become a good public speaker – Toastmasters. Click here for photo Credit As a young girl or a grown up, I was never shy and I always felt like I have something to say about any topic. I wanted to voice my opinion, too! But I used to feel nervous doing presentations even though I really wanted to get up and speak. There were times when I thought I would rather not speak instead of putting myself through that experience. That was until I joined Toastmasters. I was never the same after I attended my first Toastmasters meeting as a guest a number of years ago. Standing in front of an audience became one of the things to which I look forward. I learned so much and developed confidence in my ability as a communicator. My communication skills help me a lot in my current roles at Outlier Plan and beyond. I am an urban planner; I correspond with project teams and stakeholders in getting approvals for development applications. I am a researcher; I interview people and collaborate with other researchers. I am a facilitator; I moderate and lead discussions. In everything I do professionally, communications is a significant part. It wouldn’t come as a surprise then that I highly recommend joining Toastmasters to anyone, especially those with entrepreneurial pursuits like myself. You don’t need to take my word for it that Toastmasters is great for you. Here are some concrete reasons how it might benefit you. 1. Learning techniques of effective communication Part of the fear of public speaking is in not knowing how to do a presentation effectively. There are techniques – I call them the Toastmasters winning formula – that you can apply to make a successful presentation. These techniques range from how to organize your speech/presentation to make your point, to how to research material for your speech/presentation, to how to use voice variety and body language to engage your audience. As you progress in your experience, you also learn advanced level communications skills such as facilitation, handling the media and so on. As an entrepreneur, you can gain excellent communication skills that show off you and your ideas. 2. Practicing in front of a supportive group The dread of public speaking significantly lies in feeling exposed and judged by your audience. That is why it is important you practice in front of a supportive group as you develop your techniques and the trust in your own speaking ability. Well, in Toastmasters meetings you get a round of applause even for getting up and saying your name! Once you are comfortable with yourself as a speaker, you can speak in front of any audience. That is the magic of Toastmasters! As an entrepreneur, feeling comfortable speaking to any audience increases your chances of spreading your ideas and making yourself known. 3. Getting constructive feedback Yes, there is a lot of applause in toastmasters. There is also a lot of constructive feedback for every presentation, small or big, you make. Expect to be told what you do great and what you could do differently to be better for next time. This definitely refines your communication skills. It also teaches you how to receive feedback graciously and use it to for the betterment of yourself. As an entrepreneur, you know that there is always room for growth. How you take feedback and use it to your advantage is a great skill to have. There is a bonus, too! At a Toastmasters club, you will develop a network of likeminded people who are in the pursuit of self-development. The relationships you build there could lead to friendships, an essential component of healthy living, entrepreneur or not, business acquaintances, to career opportunities, and more. That is why I say to you, hurry and join a local Toastmasters club now! If your office happens to be at the Rostie Group like ours or anywhere in the Water Park Place building, you are actually lucky. There are two clubs that meet in the building: RCB’s Front Street Speakers and 20 Bay Street – Pros of Prose. Check them out. You better find your local club as soon as possible!
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