Why Millennials Need to Go to Toastmasters

 
Photo credit: Oda Scheel

Photo credit: Oda Scheel

 
 

When was the last time you worked on your presentation skills? For many, professional situations such as speaking in front of their boss can stir up public speaking anxiety. Others don’t realize that their presentation skills (or lack thereof) are actually holding back their careers. 

In recent years, Toastmasters has gained major traction among Fortune 500 companies. Toastmasters is the international community for leadership and public speaking training. As of this past month, about 60 percent of all top tier companies offer Toastmasters clubs for employees. Tech companies like Amazon, Google, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft are getting onboard with Toastmasters for their employees to develop effective communication skills in the workplace. These organizations host Toastmasters meetings on-site, where employees can role-play various scenarios like giving speeches and leading team meetings.

Whether you’re a new grad or have been working the 9-5 for awhile, there’s already so much to keep pace with that working on your public speaking skills isn’t at the top of your priorities. But the pay-off to practicing effective communication is clear: Strong communication skills not only help you land the job but also give you a competitive advantage throughout your entire career.

Here we discuss how Toastmasters can help you 1) grow your network, 2) expand your perspective, and 3) learn communication skills, for real this time. Whether you’re looking for a new job or pursuing ways to gain a competitive advantage in the workplace, joining Toastmasters can be one of the best things you can do for your career.

1. Grow your network

Toastmasters was founded almost a century ago and today has an estimated 357,000 members in over 140 countries. There’s likely a Toastmasters club within ten minutes of where you work or live. Since meetings are inherently social events, Toastmasters is a prime opportunity for you to swap LinkedIn handles and connect with individuals from a variety of professional backgrounds. You’re bound to find a valuable connection within your community.

Amy Segami, a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) and founder of TEDxIIT, Chicago’s longest running independently organized TED event, discussed Toastmasters’ profound impact on her career. Every time Segami travels for her career, she looks up the Toastmaster clubs in the cities she visits. Segami said about the Toastmasters network, “In a way, it’s like an extended professional family.”

And just like with typical family dynamics, words of wisdom get shared. Segami explained that one responsibility of being a local member is mentoring another Toastmaster as they achieve their goals. “If you are active in a local Toastmasters club, people get to know all about your backstory, your struggles, and how you overcame them.” That camaraderie has the potential to unlock new opportunities in your career.

2. Expand your perspective

Think of Toastmasters as community TED Talks. You can listen to presenters or step up to the podium. Many speeches are motivational, while others are humorous and insightful. Since presenters choose what to talk about, you’ll learn something new and hear different takes on contemporary issues. 

If you’ve been wanting to practice your elevator pitch, Toastmasters can help you with that, too. Bruce Chambers, Senior Manager, Corporate Security, has found himself in an elevator with senior members of his company on numerous occasions. Chambers uses those brief moments to share snapshots of his current projects.

“Toastmasters has helped me interact with senior leadership,” Chamber said, “which was key to moving into progressively more responsible roles.” Making a favorable impression on higher-ups was his goal, and his speaking style had to be clear and succinct. “A simple one-two-three framework would help immeasurably in any interview situation,” says Chambers.

Toastmasters allows you to reflect on how others perceive you, which in turn teaches you how to talk about yourself and verbalize your accomplishments. But striking a balance between humility and confidence is no cakewalk. Toastmasters inspired Segami to perceive her professional efforts in a new light: “The Toastmasters system taught me that taking credit is very honorable. Because if you do [the work], you might as well take credit for it.”

3. Learn Communication Skills (For Real This Time)

As a Toastmasters member, you’ll gain more self-confidence and self-awareness in your communication skills, two key components to better leadership. You build these skills through the process of peer evaluations, which are the cornerstone of every meeting.

Each time you present, your fellow club members give you actionable insights for you to improve aspects of your communication style, such as your body language, pacing, and audience engagement. You’ll also be on the giving end of feedback, which lets you practice active listening and communicating constructive criticism.

“You learn to listen differently,” Chambers said. “The discipline of listening carefully, giving feedback, and then taking what you’ve learned from watching others and incorporating it into your own speaking style—that piece has been invaluable.”

By practicing effective public speaking with peer feedback, you’ll learn to tell your stories in articulate and impactful ways. Segami was already a professional speaker prior to joining Toastmasters, and she found the Toastmasters club meetings helped her improve her delivery, storytelling, and humor. The meetings proved an ideal venue for professional speakers to test drive new material. “Toastmasters helped me repackage my material,” Segami said. 

Photo Credit: Par Boman

Photo Credit: Par Boman

“It’s like a
professional family”

— Amy Segami

An increasing number of companies are making hiring and promotion decisions based on your communication skills. Joining Toastmasters is looking more like the golden ticket to putting yourself ahead of the competition.

At Speeko, we believe the key to improving communication skills in the workplace is to practice regularly and often. Toastmasters is the perfect opportunity to do just that, and you’ll be joined by other motivated individual to help you achieve your goals. If you’re looking to make moves in your career, participating regularly in a program like Toastmasters can give you the confidence and inspiration to excel.

Written by Amanda Wong, Growth Marketer and Millennial

Bruce Chambers’ leadership career spans 40 years with United Airlines in a wide variety of operational and headquarters roles, including station management, planning, commercial negotiations, safety oversight, security and emergency response. He just completed his DTM and serves as an officer in three Toastmasters clubs. 

Amy Lee Segami brings her expertise in engineering, art, international marketing, and entrepreneurship to leading multicultural cross-functional teams. Segami has been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, and Huffington Post, and was featured in Chicago Crain’s Business and the TED Blog. Segami is a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), and a former Area Director. She is the founder and executive producer of TEDxIIT, the longest running independently organized TED event in Chicago. An award-winning professional speaker and executive coach, she has received numerous awards and recognitions for her innovative integration of art and science.