An excellent way to improve your public speaking skills and to become a confident speaker is to join a Toastmasters club near you. Here are some top insider tips for you to make the most out of your Toastmasters membership.
1. Attend meetings regularly
You’ve joined a club whose members and atmosphere you like. Congratulations, that’s a positive step forward! Now please commit to coming to your club every time it meets! Observing and listening to other speakers is an under-estimated way to learn presentation skills. Create your public speaking file from the things you like about other people’ delivery and try them out later yourself.
2. Speak as often as you can
Aim to deliver a prepared speech every third meeting, and in between doing these, sign-up for functionary roles and table topics. Every minute you spend on stage is an extra minute of experience speaking in front of an audience. Experience leads to confidence and confidence leads to public speaking mastery. You can’t become a great speaker if you don’t speak often!
3. Prepare your projects thoroughly
The Pathways learning experience is full of excellent educational materials, videos, questionnaires, and tips. Take your time to go through them, make notes, use the pdf files provided and take the time you need to prepare your projects. In the beginning, you may find that writing a speech takes you a couple of hours, with a few extra hours spent rehearsing. Yes, this is a lot, but building-up your presentation skills will take time!
4. Record everything!
You’ve delivered your speech and now it is your evaluator turn to deliver his or her verbal evaluation. You’re listening attentively and you agree with what was said. Will you remember it tomorrow though? Either take comprehensive notes or even record the verbal evaluations of your speeches. Just listening to them isn’t enough, you need written feedback to look back and refer to later. These little slips that other members give you? Take them with you and write them down too!
5. Set yourself goals
The Toastmasters programme works by completing key milestones etc. Use them as goalposts for your progress. I strongly believe that at minima, you should aim to finish one level every year. Don’t be a member that starts strongly and then peters out, aim for steady progress and to achieve milestones regularly. Taking part in competitions is another way to push yourself.
6. Seek out different audiences
In real-life confident speakers and leaders speak in front of diverse audiences, in a variety of settings. Do not limit yourself to speaking in your club, try to speak in other clubs. Network in the community and build links to speak in other clubs. This will guarantee you exposure to new audiences, new settings, and different speaking styles. Some Toastmaster Districts run programmes to reward this, take part in these programmes and reap their rewards!
7. Focus on content
There is sometimes a tendency in Toastmasters to focus on a lot on delivery rather than content. Don’t fall for this trap! By all means, feel free to experiment with new delivery techniques. But remember that content is king when delivering a speech or a presentation. Your delivery supports your content and not the other way around. When preparing your Toastmasters speeches, set clear objectives for the speech, and use the opportunity to share with the audience something they know little about.
8. Get a mentor and a coach
Choose your Toastmasters mentor carefully and don’t hesitate to ask him or her to push you. Ideally, choose somebody with some experience and that you’ve seen in action at a club meeting. If you aim is to develop your public speaking skills faster than just being a Toastmasters member would permit. Consider investing in a public speaking coach like myself. I had coaching sessions with a former opera singer, one year into my Toastmasters membership and it boosted me. I learned a lot by working with comedians like David Jones or Max Dickins. So get a leg-up, invest in your development and work with a coach!