[Lessons Learned] Corporate Toastmasters Clubs

Random Observation/Comment #528: Public speaking, like any skill, needs a refresher every once and a while. Don’t get cocky or else you’ll show up under prepared.

corp toastmasters

I’m coming up on my Credit Suisse “Speak Up” Toastmasters 6-year member anniversary, and after holding every officer position possible and literally attending close to 100 meetings, I can’t help but think where I’d be without this game changing club. As one of the only multi-faceted self-improvement groups within a corporate environment, Toastmasters is an easy 2-hour-per-month benefit to the attendees and managers: Anyone can do it, everyone can always improve on their communication skills, and there’s always a supportive hands-on learning environment.

You can get better IF you want to. But here’s the big secret: The Competent Leadership path is more beneficial than the Competent Communicator one. You may have the biggest fear of public speaking, but if all the chips were on the table and you had enough time to prepare/practice, you can memorize a 5-minute speech. The speech giving is easy – the Toastmasters Club leading is where it gets creative and tricky.

Here’s what goes into starting and maintaining a Corporate club:

  • Build a trusted core team. Toastmasters is not something you can organize and run on your own. I advise at least 3 other dedicated people looking to make this work.
  • Build a partnership. Use those internal resources and think of ways you can work with other groups. Public speaking is very horizontal and it’s always something every manager urges their employees to work on. Try contacting people in new hire training, HR, sales, and campus recruiting. Some managers will devote budget to paying for the toastmasters dues.
  • Spread the word. Marketing toastmasters should be pretty easy. People want to practice getting better at communication and confidence speaking in front of a group of people. Make some materials to help them.
  • Be consistent. Meet at a regular time and have an easy to understand agenda.
  • Ask for help. Speak with your area governor and ask for a mentor. They will guide you through the first 5 months and help brainstorm different ideas on how to improve your club. They will also attend your meetings and be supportive.

Lessons Learned/What We Did Right

  • Stay flexible with the members’ requests – sometimes people are looking for workshops and tips/tricks to do better. Sometimes people want to just get up there and practice.
  • Start a mentorship program – pair a more experienced speaker with a new toastmasters member and help them work on complimentary communication tasks
  • Give people a curriculum to follow – assigning a mentor is good, but evaluating progress is better. People spend a lot of money on classes because they’re given constant feedback on what they can work on and how they can work on it. Toastmasters does this with the evaluations section of meetings, but be sure to give smaller goals for people to practice in every day situations
  • Mix things up – Motivation comes in waves. Sometimes you’ll have 4 speakers for a day and sometimes you’ll have none. Make sure you keep track of those who want to speak and commit them to speaking dates. Also create meetings just for toastmasters or for specific fun themes.
  • Poll the audience during introductions – Our meetings start a little slower because we usually have a question to get everyone loosened up for the meeting. We go around the room and have people introduce themselves and answer a question related to the meetings’ theme.
  • Send reminders and meeting minutes – Before meetings occur, send out the agendas and build the buzz. After the meetings, follow-up with an email on the theme introduction thoughts, as well as recapping those who completed their speeches and won table topics.

~See Lemons Keep Toasting