My Search for a Quality Public Speaking and Leadership Programme
Would you like to be a leader in your community? Perhaps, your ambition is to be promoted in your work, to feel comfortable while speaking at social gatherings or to improve your interpersonal communication skills. Have you thought about how you can reach these goals?
Like most young people, I was not sure what I wanted to do in life, but I knew I wanted to take a degree in mathematics and to make a contribution to the Third World. I also hoped that I would overcome my terror of speaking in public. On completing my degree, a flyer posted on the college notice-board caught my attention: it simply said Africa Calling. This was the opportunity of which I had dreamed. Three months after taking my Postgraduate Diploma in Education, I was teaching A-level mathematics in Tanzania, and for two years, I had the privilege of working with a team drawn from 10 countries and four different continents.
Twenty five years later, I was in a senior management position. However, despite having completed several courses, including a Masters Degree in Management, I was aware that I did not have the communication and leadership skills needed to lead my team effectively, and I wanted to learn these skills.
One day a friend told me about the Toastmasters Programme. She had just completed her year as club president and she enthusiastically explained and emphasised the communication and leadership aspects of the programme. She spoke of the learn by doing workshop approach and how she had the opportunity to practice leadership skills by taking leadership roles in her Club. This was exactly what I had been looking for.
My friends advice, and her enthusiasm for the communication and leadership aspects of the programme, appealed to me. Within two years of joining Toastmasters, my previous dread of speaking at the roll-out of new programs and at training sessions had vanished and such occasions became enjoyable and enriching experiences. I saw the change in my private life too: I was now willing to chair committees and to be on the Board of Management of voluntary organisations in my community. My dream to break free from my terror of speaking in public had come true.
Like me, your dream of being a leader in your community, feeling comfortable before an audience, taking a leadership role with confidence or improving your communication and leadership skills can be realised. As a first step towards achieving your goals and realizing your dreams, I urge you to consider visiting and hopefully joining your local Toastmasters Club.
Is there any evidence that the Toastmasters Programme really works? If proof were needed, let me advise you that many of the top companies in the world, as well as leading professional bodies, have in-house Toastmasters Clubs to support the personal and professional development of their employees or members. For most of us, however, it is the Community Toastmasters Club that helps us to develop those skills and competencies that we so greatly admire in other people, and there are over 200 Toastmasters Community Clubs in the UK and Ireland. To find a club near you, in the UK or Ireland, you should go to www.d71.org or to find clubs worldwide, see www.toastmasters.org. We would love to have you join us.
James A Hegarty, District 71 Governor [UK and Ireland] July 2011