Are you anxious or under-confident when asked to speak in public or give a presentation? Afraid you’ll be judged, make a fool of yourself, or lose the sale?
You are not alone. Whether you are selling to a client, energizing a team, or persuading colleagues and friends on your opinions, the power of your presentation matters and everyone knows it. The fear of public speaking remains at the top of the list in surveys conducted by Psychology Today and affects the majority of people in some part of their life.
Enter Toastmasters. Toastmasters is an international organization with a proven system to improve public speaking skills. At Commit, we look for fun and engaging ways to improve our presentation skills, communication effectiveness (after all…we are communications professionals), and our confidence; not only professionally but personally. The good news is that participating in Toastmasters does all of that and more. Like learning and practicing leadership skills, and being able to practice speaking in a variety of situations and using different styles in a risk-free no judgment environment. The payoff is increased confidence, speaking with authority, communicating clearly, building authentic relationships, and in our case, building client trust and increasing engagement.
Starting with your first Toastmasters’ meeting, without exception there is meaningful learning. For example, you know how distracting it is when you are reading something and run into several typos? The equivalent in public speaking is having your audience repeatedly be distracted by hearing “ums” and “uhs” that untrained speakers use to fill the silence or give them time to think. Toastmasters learn about these annoying fillers, increase their awareness of what audiences need to experience from a speaker, and learn practical real-time ways to engage listeners without intentional distractions.
Also, there is no pressure. Toastmasters is a fun and welcoming environment where you learn at your own pace, there is no pressure to progress, and you start seeing the benefits immediately. You can visit several clubs as a guest to find the one that you like the best. There are hundreds of clubs available with so many meeting options that it’s impossible to not find one that fits you. During each meeting, you get to watch, observe and learn something new that can be used that day to improve yourself.
One of the top skills that our team talks about learning is how to give critical feedback effectively. Each speaker at a Toastmasters’ meeting has an assigned evaluator whose job is to publicly give them critical feedback (which is in itself practicing a speaking skill). The evaluation techniques modeled at meetings are tools that can be used to give feedback to clients, friends, bosses, and family members without diminishing them and helping everyone improve. The value of being able to do this is priceless and is something we can all use for the rest of our lives.
For Commit, the return on investment is significant. Obviously it’s critical that our team can develop and maintain effective relationships internally and externally in order for us to be successful. When we see Toastmasters on a resume we know that that person likes to learn, wants to improve, has invested in their own professional growth, and as a result, has most likely experienced better success in managing all kinds of different relationships.
On the job, presenting is one of the most important responsibilities of team members, and often our success as an agency depends on effectiveness when presenting. Running effective meetings is critical…after all, who wants to sit in a meeting that is meaningless and a waste of time? Internally, we might be brainstorming on strategies, selling each other on our ideas, searching for the next right answer for a client, explaining our rationale behind a creative execution, or analyzing data effectively. Client presentations in person, on the phone, and in online meetings prioritize building trust and accelerating ideas for a client’s business growth and success.
At Commit, we carefully select clients where we feel confident that we can make a significant impact in growing their brand influence and their business as a result of that. We work hard on those opportunities when we have them and have fun doing it. When pitching our approach with new relationships, we are sometimes in competitive situations where how we present ourselves, our ideas and our processes can be the difference between forming a healthy and meaningful relationship that lasts for years, or coming in “the notorious 2nd” which is never fun and means we don’t get the opportunities we’ve gotten excited about as a team.
Bottom line is that our team members that are part of Toastmasters are better leaders, are more successful, and are more engaged at work. They continuously learn leadership skills, expand their network, gain confidence, lead conversations more effectively, and become even more professional. The impact is long term relationships with team members who really care about themselves and the agency. For the agency’s business, the impact is happier clients, clients that expect us to be authentic and direct with our communications, clients that are engaged and “Commit”ed to their own growth and success and clients that trust us to be their long term partners in the pursuit of excellence. There are no better rewards than those.
In the words of Aristotle, “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”