Tom Peters is one of those 'gurus' who polarises opinions. Personally, I like his style. He is though, whatever your thoughts, one of the most in demand public speakers in the world.
So I was particularly interested to see Tom comment on a book on presentations called The Excellent Presenter by Timothy Koegel.
Tom picks up on one phrase that struck a chord with me:
Those who practice improve. Those who don't, don't.
Until a few years ago, I had to be forced into public speaking tasks. Frankly, I was crap! In one presentation I literally read the bullet points word for word for nearly 20 minutes. It was that bad! But this shouldn't have been surprising given the time I had put in to learn this skill - i.e. none.
And I guess that I was not alone. Tom recounts:
In Koegel's seminars, he asks participants how much time they spend communicating—including formal presentations, meetings, interviews to collect information, and even voice mails. The answer, and he cites other research with like numbers, is 50 percent to 80 percent of one's professional time. (Which makes perfect sense to me, as I sit here at a keyboard ... communicating.) Then Koegel asks how much time people spend practicing and evaluating their communication skills. A very, very fair question, eh? The answer is: 0/zero percent to 2 percent ... mostly zeroes.
For those interested in improving and practising their communication skills I can highly recommend Toastmasters.
I joined 18 months ago and my public speaking has since been transformed. My confidence is high, my ability to structure effective speeches is improved and the ability to support them through props, my own gestures and using my voice has transformed my delivery. I have confidently now presented at industry conferences and seminars both here and in the US. Indeed, I was voted best speaker at one!
The benefits of joining are:
- You practice in front of a safe audience. It's better to learn in a helpful learning environment like Toastmasters than to learn from your mistakes in front of your Board!
- You follow a structured programme touching on all the major aspects of an effective speech e.g. structure, vocal variety, gestures, persuading with power etc.
- A committed member could be in front of an audience in different roles over 30 times in a year.
- You learn many different aspects of public speaking - prepared speeches, impromptu speeches, running an event, listening to speeches and having to respond with only a short time to prepare.
In short, Toastmasters has been brilliant for me and I can recommend it to anyone. The only regret I have is that it took me so long to find it. It scares me to think how much more effective I might have been had I know about it ten or fifteen years earlier.
If anyone has any questions on Toastmasters please get in touch, In future I will comment further on the lessons I've learnt from my public speaking 'career'.
PS My club is Holborn Speakers. Disclosure: I am a committee member.