Post written by Max Ridder-Patrick, ACB, ALB

On Wednesday, 25th of February, our Corporate club, State Street, was one year old.

State Street Edinburgh Toastmasters is currently the only corporate club in Scotland.This means that our membership is composed exclusively of company staff, bringing with it unique benefits and challenges.We have received substantial support from our senior management who strongly support our club and its aims.

State Street are funding the club and publicly award educational awards which are noted on the company-wide intranet.

As we can use meeting rooms at our convenience, the cost to State Street is negligible (for the cost of two entry level qualifications, we are able to train 40 members) and the upside is enormous, especially to the client-facing teams who need to clearly communicate to current clients and present impressive presentations in order to win new ones.

The other key skill Toastmasters have is that they face their fears – this means that it is easier for them to cope with change so vital at this time.

In return for this support, the business receives a tailor-made curriculum and a self-supporting club with highly motivated members who will be able to benefit the business. These benefits could be broken down into three sections:

Communications – the Toastmasters curriculum is tailor-made to build confidence and competence.

As  a client-focussed organisation, clear communication is vital. The clearer and more persuasively we can communicate the better our performance and the greater the trust our clients can put in us.

The use of Table Topics has increased both our confidence and the conciseness of our responses.

Leadership – A key benefit of Toastmasters is that it is a venue where we can make mistakes without any detriment to the business.

It is also ideal for junior staff who currently don’t have the opportunity to lead other staff but would like the chance to practice their skills in a safe environment.A Competent Leadership award can be evidence of their ability as a future leader.

Feedback – Evaluation is a key aspect of Toastmasters.

Learning to give and receive feedback without giving or taking offence will allow for clearer and more effective communication.

Learning to deal with improvements in behaviour and communication is key to personal and professional growth. Toastmasters allows you to practice your skills with almost instant feedback on your performance.

The club itself is run by members like other Toastmasters clubs.Our members come from almost all departments in the building and each department usually has different deadlines.

From the outset, we have tried to establish meeting times which best suited the vast majority of our members. We decided that meetings would be held during working hours, which meant our meetings are 1 hour, rather than the usual 2 in other clubs.

Our meetings follow the same pattern although there are 2 rather than 3 speeches, the introductions are shortened and there is no break. Apart from that, meetings will be familiar to any Toastmaster.

The challenges, apart from trying to find times which are suitable to members, are trying to arrange meeting roles and speeches in an extremely busy company. Last minute drop-outs have been fairly common. Coping with these challenges has actually made us more resilient as a club and Toastmasters.

Setting up a club is never without challenges and ours was no exception. The learning curve of any new venture is steep, but the rewards we have received have been enormous. We have met colleagues and new friends from teams we were unfamiliar with; we have grown as human beings- inspired by each others’ words we have been able to start our journey to becoming better communicators and leaders.

If your company is thinking about their staff’s development and would like to have more information, please feel free to contact me via this site – I would be delighted to share our experiences.

Max Ridder-Patrick is the President of State Street Edinburgh Toastmasters, and a member of Capital Communicators, Vice President Public Relations (VPPR) of Haymarket Toastmasters and a member of  Thistle Speakers Advanced Club