So you’ve got a speech that was a bit hit at your Toastmasters meeting and you feel it’s ready for prime time. So what’s the next step along the path to becoming a professional speaker? I recommend taking your show on the road and speaking to local service clubs.
Service clubs are a great way to test the waters for your presentation. They offer you a real audience that will give you real feedback. While Toastmasters clubs are a great venue for learning how to speak, the audiences at these meetings are quite forgiving.
Service clubs allow you test your material in front of an audience that will tell you what they truly feel about your talk but are easier to book than paid engagements (and there’s no worries about having to refund money if they don’t like your talk). They also give you the following benefits:
- They get your name out to others in your community. This could lead to additional bookings.
- You can get speech credit if you bring an evaluator with you.
- You often get a longer speaking slot than you’d get at Toastmasters.
- It’s a great opportunity to practice answering questions.
- You’ll come across some distractions that typically don’t occur in Toastmasters meetings.
So now that you’re ready to speak to service clubs, the first thing you must do is contact the person in charge of booking speakers. Keep in mind that every club is different so the contact person might be the president of one club and an events director in another. Also, bigger clubs might require you to book you speech months in advance.
So once you’ve got your speech booked, it’s time to prepare. Here are some of my best tips for speaking at a service club:
- Practice as much of your presentation as you can in front of your Toastmasters club.
- Arrive early to the event so you can scope out the room.
- Bring some cash (preferably in small denominations) in case you want to get something from the bar (after your speech, of course).
- If a meal is being served, avoid eating anything that could stain your outfit.
- Always dress business formal unless told otherwise.
Speaking at service clubs can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. Most people that join these groups do so because they want to give back to the community, so you’ll get the opportunity to meet people who like helping others. You may even learn about a cause that you can get involved with. It’s most certainly a learning experience that is well worth your time.