by John Hughes
As a professional project manager, I’ve always admired managers in budget meetings who spoke effectively, used appropriate language and highlighted important points succinctly. It was then I realized that communicating effectively was just as important to my career as project management skills.
I had always been interested in joining an organization that would help improve my public speaking skills. Strangely, at the time, I thought such a group did not exist.
Then one day, when I was living in Juneau, Alaska, I attended a social event that a local politician sponsored. At the gathering, a colleague and I were discussing the importance of public speaking. During our conversation, that colleague told me about Toastmasters. I was interested in learning more. Fortunately, Juneau, a town of barely 25,000 inhabitants, had a Toastmasters club. I researched Toastmasters International online. My Web research convinced me that Toastmasters is a very well-organized association that welcomes all comers. I joined the local club which met weekly, bright and early: 6:30AM on Tuesdays. The club was well-attended, and officers ran meetings professionally.
Through my membership I had the chance to practice public speaking on a wide range of topics. I also found that a Toastmasters meeting is a forum that is both unique and instructive. Members provide professional evaluations on both the strengths and weaknesses of other members’ speeches. These evaluations always provided me valuable insight on areas I needed to improve. Moreover, constructive criticism is never levied in a derogatory manner. One benefit of Toastmasters membership is that it provides a forum that boosts members’ self-development. Moreover, there is a common understanding among Toastmasters that the effort itself should acknowledged. Results, of course, are important, but the striving is given equal weight with the outcome.
The unique Toastmaster forum has given me the opportunity to practice public speaking. As with most things in life, improvement comes with practice, and Toastmasters has found the right formula for its members to flourish.
John Hughes is on the Editorial Team of District 27 Toastmasters and treasurer of FAA Speechmasters Club 2996, which meets at noon the first and third Tuesday of every month at the FAA Headquarters. For more information, visit the club website or email FAA Toastmasters.