This post was authored by Alicia Barrett, a Trust Administrative Officer with U.S. Trust, Bank of America. Alicia is also a member of the Washington, D.C. chapter of Emerging Practitioners In Philanthropy.
Being a strong communicator is a wonderful quality that every employer, friend and significant other wants you to have, but let’s face it, communicating your ideas clearly and persuasively does not come naturally (especially for the reserved folks like me out there). To learn how to become a better communicator, I turned to my local Toastmasters International club.
Toastmasters International is a global non-profit educational organization that teaches its members how to be competent communicators and leaders. There are clubs in 126 countries and it’s likely that there’s a club in full swing in your community. Here’s how the meetings work. Upon joining, members receive two manuals – one focused on communication and the other on leadership development. The communication manual includes various speech projects about the art of persuasion, using visual aids, inspiring your audience and much more. The leadership manual includes leadership projects that cover team building and delegation. Generally, a club meets twice a month and the meetings run like a workshop where members take turns conducting the meeting, presenting speeches and providing feedback. Also, all members have the opportunity to take on a leadership role by being elected as a club officer.
Toastmasters is my “rubber meets the road” opportunity to work on communication skills beyond my role at work. I joined the Monumental Voices Toastmasters Club in Washington, DC nearly one year ago. Each meeting I’ve attended is tremendously insightful and I’ve met great people with various career backgrounds. I’ve learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses in communication. For instance, I use fillers such as “uh, so and you know”. I also glance at my notes too often when I get nervous and haven’t completely prepared my speech. On the other hand, I realized that I’m great at engaging my audience as well as impromptu speaking. Overall, Toastmasters has given me the tools and training I need to become a stronger communicator.
As you know, communication skills are one of the key pillars in EPIP’s Measuring a Leader skillset. To take your communication skills to the next level, I recommend practicing with a Toastmasters club. You’ll get to share your ideas and constructive feedback with a diverse group of professionals who are there for the same reasons you are. Ultimately, I look forward to using the communication skills I’m building through Toastmasters to spread the word about EPIP and its mission to build an equitable and sustainable society.