Why? What if……?

By Gill Ornstein(President of HOD Speakers)

Becoming comfortable with the format, requirements and challenges of Toastmasters took a good few years.  Why did I join?  My work is training and facilitating and I needed to ‘up my game’.  It is easy to become complacent when you have the knowledge and start coasting….what an insult to your audience!  Talking endlessly (as I do!) with a TM friend who adores challenges we knew that the TM meeting approach could be applied in so many directions.  We mused ‘what if….’ and, after getting backing ‘Speak Up, Speak Out; programmes for 14-16 year olds was started and over five years 2,000 students had been involved in the 12 week programme reported on in the press at prestigious offices in the City. This has now been taken over by the Peachey Foundation and is proving its value to all students.   It is vital these young people, so very able to communicate by social media but lacking in knowing how to be effective face-to-face, to structure all that they do/say, appreciate the right use of language and project themselves to impress. And have fun!

So…..what now?  Personally I have been asked to run programmes within the voluntary sector e.g. Victim Support and Samaritans .  Not only are volunteers needing the confidence that clear, sound appropriate skills can provide, but the police when giving evidence in Court, and in choosing an empathetic, direct way to inform victims and families of what has happened or going to happen.  And for those who are out of work whose confidence may have taken a battering? I regularly run seminars demonstrating how able they are and provide evaluations that, hopefully, are supportive but honest and constructive.

I run school programmes, not only for the schools in which you may consider are disadvantaged students but in public schools the students have been eager to learn the techniques offered by Toastmasters.

Every year schools in Surrey I have assisted in the challenge of running programmes for those students with Asperger’s Syndrome and their parents/guardians.  A particularly challenging course but, oh the absolute joy of seeing students go from not even being able to look up to, 12 weeks later, giving a 10 minute presentation, with PowerPoint, on a subject of their choice – some on the impact of bullying!  To provide them with a voice and hear what confidence allows them to say, is humbling.

Perhaps a little foolishly, I accepted a request from a bride’s parents to be Toastmaster at the wedding !  I have to admit that, not only, as challenges go, this was the hardest in terms of bringing together all TM skills in terms of timings, structure, speaking effectively (and with humour!), being sensitive…..and putting up with terrible aching feet………………..

My message is this – yes, you can use Toastmasters simply as a vehicle for your personal development /career – but look at how you can reach out so easily to enable others to become accomplished, fulfilled communicators.  And, of course, in the process learn so much yourself.

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