A recent survey reported that UK employees rate communication skills as the top key skill in a list of ‘soft skills’ they look for in a workforce. The You Gov survey of over 800 employers found that over 60% look for communications skills compared with 28% looking for problem solving skills.
Jim Davidson, founder of the Perth club in Scotland, which is part of the global network of Toastmasters International, is convinced there is something we can all do to improve our communications skills in the office as well as in our social lives. He feels learning public speaking can be the key to confidence. “Whatever your goals in life, your success often depends on your ability to communicate well. Everyone has something worthwhile to say but many people wish to overcome their nerves or speak with more confidence” he says. “At Perth Toastmasters we practise a variety of techniques which allow our members to develop their own style of speaking and to practise this at their own pace. Making small changes to your voice or body gestures can greatly improve the impact of what you say and, of course, preparation and practise is very important”
The worldwide, non-profit, Toastmaster organisation began in California in 1924 and is now rapidly expanding in UK – and in Scotland in particular. Toastmasters International is committed to improving speaking skills and should not to be confused with the Professional Guild of Toastmasters who often take a Master of Ceremony role at formal functions.
Members of Perth Toastmasters work through the Communication and Leadership Programmes, both of which comprise a series of projects working on a range of skills. This involves giving short talks, practising different skills and even learning how to deal with impromptu speaking, “believe it or not, you CAN learn how to speak off-the-cuff” says Jim Davidson. All the learning at the club is supported by positive and constructive evaluations by fellow members and the club provides a supportive and friendly atmosphere. “Often we are our own harshest critics, so it is a great confidence booster to receive positive feedback from others and to hear constructive ideas on how we can improve” says Jim.
So what exactly do members learn?
Jim explains that only 7% of what we convey is through words. A further 55% is through body language and the final 38% of what we say is expressed by our voice.
Activities designed to improve speaking skills include structure of the talk, effective gestures, working on voice tone, pitch and speed and piecing together an informative or inspiring speech. Mastering the confidence to speak out is valuable, but where can you go from there? The next stage in Toastmasters is to move on to leadership skills. Projects such as organising an event, helping with PR or taking a meeting role not only earn you advance certificates but are bound to do wonders for your CV.
Learning to speak out can be a real career boost and with the help and support of Perth Toastmasters it is achievable.
Club meetings will include educational seminars and guests are welcome to attend meetings FREE of charge. Jim stresses that “guests are not obliged to speak at meetings unless they are keen to do so and all our meetings are friendly – it is a good chance to meet a wide range of people and to share the learning experience with them”
Perth Toastmasters meets at The Lovatt Hotel, Glasgow Road, Perth on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month at 7.00pm and more information can be found on the website or by contacting current club president John on 07949 385212.