David Brinsdon, 11 November 2017
Attending a workshop, presentation or lecture on a topic you are familiar with (or unfamiliar with) brings many benefits. Today, I attended (with a few others from Newbury Speakers) a Leadership workshop with Aletta Rochat and organised by Basingstoke Speakers. Aletta is the Region 11 director for Toastmasters International. Region 11 is huge, it spans from Scandinavia through all of Europe and into Africa right down the South Africa. The Regional Director was in the UK for a week, so this was a rare opportunity to meet, listen and learn from one of the most experienced and professional members of the Toastmasters International organisation.
The session was split into two parts:
Part 1 – Speaking as Leader
Aletta gave a talk sharing some top tips and pointers on Leadership. She covered the importance of listening, how to gain charisma, showing your ‘why’, how to deal with conflict and the importance of validating people. She was able to reference other people’s work and gave pointers for the audience to further research the ideas she was presenting.
Part 2 – How to leverage Toastmasters Membership in your career
This was an interactive session for the group but also a great demonstration of facilitation skills by Aletta herself. She lead us on a journey by asking a series of questions designed to bring out examples of how we had benefited from Toastmasters outside of the club environment and then we shared these examples with the group. The examples of how people had benefited where multiple, relatable and served as a healthy reminder as to why we attend a Toastmasters club. We had examples of people gaining promotions, winning the best presentation award at a conference, gaining confidence in interviews, mentoring and more.
The communication and leadership skills we learn in Toastmasters are multiple and most importantly transferable to real life examples. One action – that those from Newbury Speakers took from the meeting – was to include a ‘Members Moment’ on the agenda on club meeting. A moment where we give a member 1-2 minutes to share a story of how attending Newbury Speakers has benefited them and ensure that we do not lose sight of the reason ‘why’ we come to Toastmasters.
Over the years I have taken many golden nuggets of information and lessons from many workshops and more recently webinars. The opportunities to learn from others are all around us, and those lessons normally come from many hours of trial and error on behalf of others – many hours of which I do not have the time in which to make the same errors – so giving up an evening or a day on the weekend from time to time is easily justified. Only question left is – where is the next learning opportunity?
The ability to think on your feet is a key skill that will help you become more successful in both your business and personal life.
When you can translate your thoughts and ideas into coherent speech quickly, you ensure that your ideas are heard. You also come across as being confident, persuasive and trustworthy.
Table Topics is a regular part of a Toastmasters meeting. A Table Topic is an impromptu speech, usually two minutes long, which helps members develop their ability to think on their feet, organise their thoughts and present them in a clear and structured manner, building confidence along the way.
In much the same way, a job interview can be thought of as a series of Table Topics. You are asked a question (the Topic). You need to identify what the interviewer is looking for in the answer, then organise your thoughts and present them back in a clear and structured manner.
While we may not all be looking for our next job, being able to think on your feet and respond confidently and coherently to that awkward question may do wonders for your career prospects.
These quotes from celebrated thinkers and well-known leaders from around the world and throughout history provide powerful insights that can benefit both seasoned leaders and individuals tackling the leadership challenge for the first time.
“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed….Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.”
— Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”
— Ken Blanchard, management expert and author
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou, poet, performer and activist
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States
“A leader takes people where they would never go on their own.”
— Hans Finzel, author, speaker and leadership mentor
“Hello everyone—thank you for having me. I’m delighted to be here” doesn’t really cut it as the opening to your speech. You need to start off with something that will capture the audience’s attention and bring energy to yourself and to your presentation.
If appropriate, share a short personal story, a brief commentary on a recent, relevant headline, or a quotation.
This will help get you over any opening jitters, get you warmed up and hopefully will have the audience impressed with an opening (and a speaker) who is more interesting than they expected.
In todays fast food, fast paced world, social media and society expectations are far removed from a time gone by. Our children are using tablets and technology, often before pre-school. The impact is now on our ability to ‘play’ in this multi-cultural, global village environment. So what to do? How does our measure up?
To this end, in the authors opinion, there is no real difference to the communication issue 20 or 30 years ago or today. When we go for a job interview or speak at a friends wedding, the communication dynamics remain the same. The speaker has to convince the prospective employer that they are a good bet! We have to engage with our audience and enrol them into our message. This means speaking with a degree of confidence. It means being clear in our thinking and being able to articulate a concept, idea or response in such a way that the audience (either one or many) understand the essence of our communication.
Toastmasters provides a proven framework in a safe environment through which lessons and therefore growth as a speaker can occur in a rewarding and positive manner. The by-product of this effort though speaks to an individual’s quest for their own development and also it speaks to how, in so many settings, the individual communicates effectively.
To find out more please go to the contacts section on the main menu above.