How has Toastmasters improved your professional career

The art of free speech

The thousand-headed monster lurks in the semi-darkness. Myriads of eyes watch the victim standing there, helpless, cramped into a bundle of misery with shock, no escape, no effective weapons. An incredible number of ears delight in every throat clearing, stuttering, gasping for breath.

Horror story? Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that! Terrible reality for most of those who have ever stood on a stage giving a speech in front of a large audience.

Very few are really relaxed when they have to display their eloquence in public. Even many social natures squirm at the thought of a public presentation. For shy people, the thought of a one-on-one conversation with their supervisor is enough so that they can go to sleep. Most of them know that nowadays a career without rhetorical persuasiveness and presentation skills is more likely to be forgotten. Business liaison guru Keith Ferrazzi knows that those who can express themselves are listened to. In his book, Never Go Eating Alone! and other secrets about networking and success «he advises business people who are reluctant to speak to join a very special network:» Toastmasters International offers a forum for developing rhetorical skills. (...). This very well run organization has helped millions of people improve their speaking skills and overcome their fears. ”And, by the way, improve their leadership skills.

Speaker network
11,700 Toastmaster Clubs exist in 92 countries. There are now three offshoots in Vienna. One of them is reserved for the employees of the Vienna International Center, the Vienna Toastmasters Club and the Vienna Speakers Club are open to everyone who wants to improve their speaking skills. The only difference between the two public clubs is the day of the meeting, the evenings are identical in both. Also because the Toastmasters attach great importance to the fact that all meetings around the world follow the same principle. Whether in Bombay or Budapest, all meetings follow the same pattern.

Active participation is the motto of the organization founded in 1924. Every two weeks around 20 to 30 members meet for a club evening. After a greeting by the Toastmaster of the Evening, who leads the session, impromptu improvisations follow. Members try to answer a previously unknown question in two minutes. Prepared speeches will then be presented, some with Powerpoint. The speakers are free to choose the topic; it is less about the content than about optimizing voice, body language and expression. Business presentations and sales talks are often practiced, sensitive areas such as politics or religion are avoided. The speakers receive instructions for the speeches in manuals, which are included in the membership fee of 150 euros per year. The regulations and standards make it easy for toastmasters to join the local clubs on business trips or when moving abroad.

Um counter
There are no listeners at the Toastmasters, members who do not have a say in one evening help their colleagues. The »timer« makes sure that the speakers don't gossip. A "grammarian" gives tips on how to optimize your sentence structure. Others count filler words like "uh" and "also" or observe the body language of the presenter. In the third part of the evening, other participants give feedback on the individual speeches in a short presentation. Destructive criticism is taboo, says Prof. Adelheid End, senior physician at the Vienna General Hospital, the point is to give the speaker colleagues helpful tips for professional and private development. "I am impressed by the respectful, polite and appreciative interaction of the members with one another."

Worldwide communication
If the regional meetings are not enough for you, you can get further training in workshops and presentations at the national conferences that take place twice a year. Ambitious members can measure their rhetorical skills with those of their European Toast colleagues in friendly competition. And definitely make one or two career-relevant contacts. In contrast to classic business networks, business initiation is not a focus at Toastmaster meetings. But that does not mean that there are not always opportunities for professional networking during the break and in the informal part after the meeting, says Mag. Monika Nagel, who has been an active toast master since 2005. She got to know the network during her MBA at Webster University, in a presentation course designed according to the principles of the rhetorician network. “I saw how this method set milestones in communication.” The department manager at Porr Solutions GmbH now runs the Vienna Toastmasters Club. "My communication is clearer and more efficient, my assertiveness has become stronger."

You train your leadership skills in a playful way by taking on various roles in the organization, says Mag. Nagel. »Every member is important, everyone takes responsibility. You learn to moderate an evening, put together a team and criticize a colleague constructively. «Many managers, politicians and freelancers benefit from their membership in the Toastmasters. But students, assistants and mothers on maternity leave also meet twice a month in the seminar room of the Hotel Biedermeier in Vienna's Landstrasse. "It's a mix of interesting people, around 30% of the participants are not from Austria."

Business Language
The Viennese clubs speak and present - so far - exclusively in English. Reason enough for Dr. Adelheid End to join the Toastmasters. Finally, the thorax surgeon gives a lecture on her findings at various international congresses. »You learn in a playful way, in a pleasant environment, which gives you freedom and spontaneity. Presenting is even more fun when speaking becomes easier and more fluent. "

Anyone who thinks they have to speak polished English like an Oxford professor to join the club is wrong. "Our members have different levels of linguistic ability, it is not that all speak English well," says Nagel. Nevertheless, potential members fear that their knowledge is insufficient. “In fact, this fear is unfounded. After a while you can see that practice makes perfect. "

Good news at the end: If you can't imagine speaking in English, you can still become a Toastmaster in the near future. If you are interested, there are plans to found a German-speaking club in Vienna.

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