When you think about speaking in public do your palms sweat?

Do you worry that you might flub your words or lose your train of thought?

Have you tried to envision the audience in their underwear?

Not to worry … these and many other thoughts have crossed the minds of anyone that has been told they’ll need to deliver a speech.

A little stage fright and nervous energy are usually a good thing. It means you care about your topic and you care about your audience.

Improving Your Speaking Skills is Worth Your Time

When your speaking skills improve you help yourself and everyone you are working with. Why? Because the time you spend improving your skills helps you communicate more clearly, succinctly and effectively. All sides of the conversation are improved.

The TM in the title is a reference to Toastmasters. This is not an advertisement for Toastmasters. Rather it’s a recommendation for you to find a place where you can practice your speaking skills in a friendly environment.

With a little help you can bypass the sweaty palms and perhaps learn a few more tips and tricks for speaking both in public and in small groups. This is where Toastmasters come in.

Have you ever thought about Toastmasters? Perhaps not, but more than likely you probably have thought about public speaking and perhaps even improving your speaking skills.This is where Toastmasters come in.

Don’t worry … Toastmasters is not all about giving Toasts. However, you will probably learn how to give a great toast. You will also learn how to give an impromptu speech, how to evaluate someone else’s speech and, of course, to give speeches yourself. The best part about Toastmasters is that you are amongst friends. Friends that WANT to see you succeed. This is where Toastmasters come in.

A few benefits of the Toastmasters Way

By attending Toastmasters meetings you will learn a lot about several aspects of speaking. Beyond the obvious of preparing and delivering a speech you will also learn how to organize a meeting, how to introduce a speaker and how to properly hand off to the next speaker.

Secret Tip for Business – You will also learn how to handle tough questions with aplomb

Every meeting has the same format. Each has the elements listed below. I will not go into each element in detail, but I can tell you that knowing how to do each one will help you become a better speaker … and a better listener too!

  • Opening
  • Table Topics
  • Speeches
  • Evaluation

Kicking It Off – The Opening

The person that runs the meeting is called the Toastmaster or TM for short. The TM schedules the meeting — meaning they confirm all of the roles before the meeting starts to insure the meeting will be successful. The TM is responsible for beggining, running and closing the meeting. This may seem obvious and perhaps easy, but running a successful meeting takes work.

We’ve all been to boring meetings with no agenda and no flow — these are probably being run by non-Toastmasters.

Why are Table Topics just like every day at Work?

Table Topics are the best part of a Toastmasters meeting. Why? Because you are asked a question and you need to think of a response quickly. You literally have just a few seconds to come up with a beginning, middle and an ending to respond to this question.

This is just like life. When your boss, colleague, partner or customer asks you a question … you have just a few seconds to come up with a reasonable, cogent and accurate response.

Table Topics are why Your Boss wants you to do Toastmasters

I’m not going to go into detail about these last two points.

Speeches – The speeches are an important part of the Toastmasters experience, but they are just one aspect of improving your speaking skills.

Evaluations – One of the best parts of Toastmasters is that everyone gets feedback within a few minutes of delivering a speech. This is critical for improving your speaking skills.

As mentioned above this is not intended to be an advertisement for Toastmasters. However, with over 75 years of success in helping people improve their speaking skills it’s hard to fault their methods.

If you want to get started with Toastmasters it’s easy …

There is likely a local Toastmasters club near you. Some meet in the morning, some at lunch, some in the evening and some meet on the weekends too. There might be a club at your company … ask around. Find a Toastmasters Club near you at the Toastmasters web site.

Your Voice Has Power … Learn to Use It

This post is a call to action to suggest that you spend the time to improve your speaking skills. Whether you utilize the tried and true techniques of Toastmasters or find other ways to improve your communication style and skills.

As your speaking skills improve you will be sought after for your clear and cogent message and delivery. Your speaking skills can carry you to places you may have never imagined. Taking the time to improve your speaking skills can be lucrative personally and professionally.


Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.