Practicing what we speak

My appreciation to guest blogger Laurie Dameshek for sharing her experiences in this post!

Have you ever struggled to answer an unusual question during a job interview? Would you like more practice providing constructive evaluations for fellow employees? Do you wish you could improve at organizing meetings or events? If so, there is actually an organization that can help with all of these skills and more. 

You may have heard of Toastmasters International (TMI). If so, you might think of them as a club where people learn to be better pubic speakers. It is possible, however, that you missed the fact that the mission of TMI as an organization is to teach leadership and communication skills beyond just preparing and presenting speeches. For the past 93 years, Toastmasters clubs around the world have gathered to support individuals looking to grow in a variety of personal and professional arenas. 

Plotting your journey to expand your horizons

When you become a Toastmasters member, you are introduced to the basic training programs that encourage both speaking skills and leadership techniques. A Vice President for Education in your club will help you schedule times to give prepared speeches, while a personal mentor is likely to guide you through your individual journey. Meetings include both prepared and impromptu speaking opportunities, as well as chances to observe the habits of others related to their use of the language and their gestures when speaking. You can volunteer for roles that help you organize a meeting or a club event, and over time you will learn to evaluate the speeches given by other club members.

I joined my club, Cerner Toastmasters, in 2011, when it was actually called Siemens Toastmasters (our company host). After many years of speaking in public situations, I wasn’t looking to get the basics under my belt, but to hone my skills. I was surprised by how much I liked the Table Topics component of meetings, which is the name for the impromptu questions asked and answered in 1-2 minutes. I also discovered how hard it was as a fifty-year-old to memorize a speech, but I keep trying.  I even won a couple of Humorous Speech contests, which I consider a huge stretch for a woman not known for her comedic sense.

Finding a supportive group in which to grow

Being a member of TMI has taught me how supportive club members are, and that we have all gone through this process at some point. Meetings are safe spaces to try out new techniques, and they are also a great place to network with local professionals. I have made good friends over the past six years and learned invaluable skills in that time.

If you want to learn more about TMI or find a local club, check out the Toastmasters web site.

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Guest blogger: Laurie Dameshek

Laurie Dameshek holds an MA in Educational Psychology from Prescott College and a BS in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, with concentrations in Management and Decision Sciences.

During Laurie’s nearly 35 year career in information systems, she has worked with co-workers and students, in paid and volunteer positions, to focus on career and academic goals. She has mentored teens to help them establish and maintain their social and academic skills and has coached college students and working professionals to assist them in the development and maintenance of organizational, professional development, communication and leadership skills.

In addition to her day job as a Senior Information Architect at Ricoh USA, she coaches students as an Independent Educational Consultant.