Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Toastmasters' Banners at a District 6 Conference

Toastmasters International is a worldwide nonprofit organization that helps people improve communication and leadership skills. It also builds self-confidence and self-esteem. Communication and leadership skills go hand in hand. There are many good reasons why Toastmasters teaches both communication and leadership skills. People with good communication skills are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions, and good leaders need communication skills to be effective. In other words, if you want to be a leader, you have to learn to speak like a leader. Toastmasters is here to help.

I don't know of a single political candidate who couldn't benefit from Toastmasters. I suggest going to a few meetings and see what new things you can learn. There is always something you can improve on in your public speaking and presentation skills. There are many clubs in District 6. Find one near you. 

How to speak like a leader
by Michael Landrum, ATMB

Listen generously. Emerson said: “First seek to understand, then to be understood.” How do you listen to an audience? Do your research. Find out who they are, what they need and want, and what they expect from you. When you step to the lectern, pause and listen. Are they ready to hear you? During your speech, keep listening. Pay attention to them. Are they leaning forward, backward or on each other? Be willing to depart from your prepared remarks to recover your rapport with them. Ask questions. Even something as simple as “Is that clear?” can reestablish contact.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Aren’t these two phrases the same? No indeed: “Say what you mean” is about telling the truth, “Mean what you say” is about making a commitment, keeping your promise, honoring your word. Have something meaningful to say. Step to the lectern with the intention of making a difference to your audience.

Use the fewest words with the fewest syllables. I run afoul of this one all the time. It’s the main reason I rewrite so often, looking for big, two-dollar words I can swap for a single 10-cent syllable. Delete therefore, insert so. That’s real economy in writing. Remember that the basic unit of communication is not the word but the idea.

Align with your audience. We may consider it our task to speak to the audience, but it is sometimes more important to speak for them. Express those thoughts and feelings that you share with them. Even if you think they are wrong and you are the advocate of sweeping change, you must first understand and articulate their feelings. Great leaders know that leadership begins with the pronoun we.

Be specific. Use stories, anecdotes, parables and examples rather than generalities and abstractions. This is a tough one for some people. They love to wander through a topic in the abstract, scattering generalities as they go. The great teachers and speakers pepper their talks with vivid, detailed examples. “He seemed upset as he left” is general. “He blew his nose, kicked the dog and slammed the door” is specific.

Suit the action to the word, the word to the action. Don’t say “I’m glad to be here” while looking at your wristwatch. Be aware of your non-verbal communication. Your gestures, posture, facial expressions, energy, tone of voice, and a thousand other tiny, unuttered elements actually carry the true and specific meaning of your communication. We can understand the words “I love you” well enough. But their true importance, their actual meaning, is all wrapped up in how they are spoken, and by whom.

Structure your speech. One valuable way to make your talk memorable is to speak to a structure and make your listeners aware of it. Share with them the form of your thoughts as well as the content and they will be able to follow more complex ideas. It will be easier for you to remember, too. People appreciate the scenery more with a glance at the road map every now and then.

Speak to be understood. Have the courtesy to develop your voice so that all may hear you. You groom your appearance, so why not cultivate your voice? With a little effort it can be strong, crisp, clear and various in texture, color and range. It’s sad when speakers expend their energy to create a vivid, well-constructed talk and then whisper, mutter or mumble.

Speak for the benefit of others. Serve your audience well by keeping their interests foremost in your mind. This is the golden rule of speaking. As an audience member you can easily tell when a speaker is self-serving. Nothing communicates more clearly than intention.

Speak from your highest self. The highest self is where hope resides. To lead effectively requires a courageous, positive, optimistic view. As any astronaut will tell you, if you get high enough you will be in perpetual sunshine. There must be a caveat attached to this rule, however: Beware of elevating yourself with a high horse. Be humble. Having an opinion is a meager accomplishment. On most occasions a modest demeanor improves communication.

Michael Landrum, ATMB, is a speaker, coach and writer in New York.

Mission Statement

Toastmasters International is the leading movement devoted to making effective oral communication a worldwide reality. Through its member clubs, Toastmasters International helps men and women learn the arts of speaking, listening, and thinking – vital skills that promote self-actualization, enhance leadership potential, foster human understanding, and contribute to the betterment of mankind. It is basic to this mission that Toastmasters International continually expand its worldwide network of member clubs, thereby offering ever-greater numbers of people the opportunity to benefit from its programs.


Toastmasters International empowers people to achieve their full potential and realize their dreams. Through our member clubs, people throughout the world can improve their communication and leadership skills, and find the courage to change.


Toastmasters International’s core values are integrity, dedication to excellence, service to the member, and respect for the individual. These are values worthy of a great organization, and we believe we should incorporate them as anchor points in every decision we make. Our core values provide us with a means of not only guiding but also evaluating our operations, our planning, and our vision for the future.

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