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  • Diana Schneidman

Terrific way to develop public speaking skills in support of your freelance and consulting practice

If you relish new ideas on how to get the word out about your freelance and consulting services, you’re probably aware that many marketing experts recommend that you make presentations to local community organizations. Rotary, Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce, MeetUp groups, church organizations, etc. are possible venues that need speakers for their never-ending schedule of meetings.

While most of them do not pay speakers, the bigger payoff can be in showcasing your expertise and introducing your work to businesspeople in the area, as well as collecting names for addition to your email list and LinkedIn connections.

There are many experts out there offering speech coaching and writing services to help you prepare for speaking gigs, but the best choice for self-development may be right in your backyard. It’s called Toastmasters International, and it now numbers about 280,000 members in 13,500 clubs in 116 countries.

Toastmasters is a wonderful program because it gives you ongoing practice and because it offers a community of friends who provide support to each other. The clubs meet on a regular schedule—generally weekly or twice a month—to carry out a well-structured speaking program that offers all club members speaking roles at almost every meeting. These range from scheduled speeches—usually lasting five to seven minutes so preparation time requirements are modest—to chairing the meeting, speaking off the cuff on impromptu topics, and evaluating other speakers.

Speeches are developed from the organization’s manuals, starting with the 10-speech Competent Communicator manual. These 10 speeches each focus on a different key element to a speech, such as organization, vocal variety, and visual aids. The member has broad discretion in choosing a topic, allowing subjects similar to what you would present in support of your business.

Another benefit of Toastmasters is the opportunity to network with fellow Toastmasters from beyond your own club. The organization has a pyramid structure, with each club feeding into an area, which feeds into higher divisions and culminating at the international level. There are program and meeting opportunities beyond the club, including speaking contests that motivate members to really polish a speech.

What’s really amazing is the price. Dues vary by chapter and from time to time manuals must be purchased in addition to paying dues. Still, Toastmasters is an amazing bargain, with some clubs costing only about $100 per year. Where else can you find so much encouragement and education at such a reasonable cost?

Just so happens that I’m the incoming president for my club, Naperville (IL) Riverwalk Toastmasters, which meets twice a month at noon. We’d love to have you visit and consider joining.

Our time and city doesn’t work for you? There’s probably a club in your area meeting at your preferred time, whether early morning, during the workday, evening, or weekend. Find the club closest to you at the Toastmasters International website.

The organization’s mission statements summarize the story:

The mission of Toastmasters International: We empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.

The clubs’ mission: We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.

Originally posted 6-17-13

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