Last year, I did a presentation at a Toastmasters District Conference about how one can take their speaking to the next level. I’ve since been invited to give this talk to various Toastmasters Clubs (if you’d like me to speak at your club, please contact me) and I’ve learned that a lot of folks within Toastmasters are surprised at how many opportunities they have within the organization to push their limits as speakers.
I’ve put together a list of ten things you can do within the Toastmasters organization to prevent your growth as a speaker from plateauing. Remember that doing the same thing over and over again (such as giving a five to seven minute prepared speech to your club each month) will only let you grow so far. While you’ll grow the most by speaking outside of Toastmasters, here are some ways to push yourself on your path to your DTM.
1. Try out the different roles
Don’t just stick to prepared speeches and table topics. Offer to be a timer, joke master, ah counter, etc… so that you can try new things. Each role requires you to use a different set of speaking skills so try them all.
2. Be the Toastmaster
This is the ultimate improve role — you never know who will show up, how the speeches will go and what sudden changes might happen. On top of that you need to welcome guests, introduce speakers and roles and comment on everything as you transition from role to role. This will keep you on your feet, pull you out of your comfort zone and test how well you can deal with change on the fly.
3. Take an evaluation role.
An evaluation is a lot like table topics except for one big difference — you’re delivering criticism. Being able to deliver criticism is tough — many experienced people in management and leadership roles struggle with this. You not only have to deliver constructive criticism in a manner that encourages the speaker to keep going, but you’re doing it in front of an audience. Personally, I think this is the toughest role within Toastmasters — but it’s also the one that will give you the most benefit.
4. Compete in a speech contest
There are two main differences between a speech contest speech and a regular manual speech. The first is that the timing is critical — no matter how wonderful a speech you give, if you’re even one second over the time limit, your speech gets disqualified. The second is that your speech is judged against the other speeches in the contest. The time limit is interesting because I’ve seen people go over ten minutes OVER their time limit (yes, I’ve actually seen someone take 17 minutes to do a 5-7 minute speech) and outside of Toastmasters, going over the time limit can be an a big no-no.
As for the judged part, you need to convince your audience (or the subset that’s judging your speech) that yours is the best. In the world of professional speaking, you need to make sure that the audience enjoys your talk as well as the person that hired you to give the talk likes it — so there’s a similarity there.
5. Become an officer
Being an officer is one of the best things you can do as a Toastmaster. In addition to the professional experience that you can gain within each particular role, you’re often given impromptu speeches that can push you outside your comfort zone. The Treasurer may need to stress the importance of paying dues on time, the Vice President of Membership may need to motivate people to invite friends to a guest night or the President may need to communicate a new policy that the club will be following. The bottom line is that club officers often need to give speeches that require authority and that is a lot different than giving a prepared speech about your recent vacation.
In part 2 of this article, we’ll cover some ideas that you get to venture beyond your own club.