Who are your favorite leaders? If you think about it, I’m sure you’ll find that, in addition to being great
leaders, they are also good communicators.
Toastmasters International (http://www.toastmasters.org) is a non-profit educational organization. It is widely known for teaching public speaking through a worldwide network of meeting locations. What you may not know is that this organization is also recognized for teaching leadership skills and overall verbal communication skills. On the leadership track, it offers three certifications: Competent Leader, Advanced Leader Bronze (ALB), and Advance Leader Silver (ALS). All of these skills are a must for a great leader.
The organization is headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, and it has more than 313,000 members in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped millions of people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience and also demonstrate sound leadership skills.
The following is a partial list of famous toastmasters. You might be able to recognize some of them.
Carl Albert Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1971-77
William Bennett Former Premier of British Columbia, Canada
James Brady Two-term press secretary for U.S. President Ronald Reagan (Brady Bill)
Joe Conley Actor, former cast member of television show The Waltons
Peter Coors Chairman of Coors Brewing Company
Philip Crosby Quality expert and leader of the quality movement
Debbi Fields Rose Founder, Mrs. Fields Cookies
Napoleon Hill Best-selling author of "Think and Grow Rich;" presidential advisor
Tara D. Holland C. Miss America, 1997
Donald D. Lennox Former President, Xerox Corporation's Information Systems Group
Harvey Mackay Best-selling author of "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive"
Tom Monaghan Founder of Domino's Pizza; owner of Detroit Tigers from 1983-1992
Walter Schirra Late former U.S. astronaut in 3 programs; (Mercury, Gemini and Apollo)
To become a Competent Leader (CL) by Toastmasters, you need to complete 10 projects while serving in various club meeting roles. An evaluator, who is an experienced leader from the club, will give you feedback on each project, helping you to improve. As expected from a reputable organization and a nurturing club, the feedback has a positive and encouraging tone.
After earning the CL certification, you can further refine and develop your leadership skills by working in the advanced leader program. Members working in this program are eligible for Advanced Leader Bronze (ALB) and Advanced Leader Silver (ALS) recognitions.
To become a Competent Communicator (CC) you need to complete 10 speech projects, which will help you develop your speaking skills one step at a time.
After receiving CC recognition, you can work in the Advanced Communication Series manuals, where you’ll refine and enhance your speaking skills and become eligible for Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB), Advanced Communicator Silver (ACS) and Advanced Communicator Gold (ACG) recognitions. There are 15 manuals, each containing five speech projects. Many of the manuals are career-oriented. The program is very flexible; you choose the manuals you want to complete and the skills you want to learn.
Below is a partial list of the communication manuals:
- Humorously Speaking
- Speaking to Inform
- Facilitating Discussion
- Speeches by Management
- Technical Presentations
- Persuasive Speaking
- Interpersonal Communication (negotiating, handling criticism, coaching, complaining)
Eliminating Speech Disfluencies
In Toasmasters, you learn to be aware of speech disfluencies and how to eliminate them. Speech disfluency is any of various breaks, irregularities, or non-lexical vocables that occur within the flow of otherwise fluent speech. These include false starts, sentences that are cut off mid-utterance, phrases that are restarted or repeated, repeated syllables, and fillers. Some examples are: uh, erm, um, well, you know, and anyways.
Join a Club!
Of course, the Toastmasters educational program only makes sense from a club perspective. Speaking and leadership skills cannot be learned in isolation. To get the full benefit of the Toastmasters experience, you have to join a club!
During the club meetings you also learn how to deliver brief impromptu speeches. These are on-the-spot speeches, as opposed to prepared/rehearsed speeches. I vividly remember a time when a senior executive stopped by my desk and asked me a spontaneous question. I got very surprised and nervous, but then I remembered the skills I learned from Toastmasters, and I was able to articulate a very professional and sound response.
Some clubs meet early in the morning, before going to work. Other clubs meet during lunch time for one hour at a specific corporation, while they allow both employees and non-employees to join. Still others meet at night, usually for two hours. Some clubs meet once a week, others twice a month, and others once a month.
Most major cities in the world have at least one Toastmasters club. For instance, in the area of Hollywood, California there are 6 clubs; and in the area of Newport Beach, California there are 9 clubs. There are also 9 clubs in Santa Monica, California.
Although all clubs follow the same guidelines, each club has its own culture. I recommend you visit about 5 clubs, and then decide which club you feel most comfortable with.
People who have joined Toastmasters based on my recommendation have told me that this was one of the best advices they’ve received for both their career and their personal life.
Are you ready to be part of Toastmasters and enhance your leadership skills? Please post a comment below. Thank you.
For more information, visit http://www.toastmasters.org.
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