Toastmasters International has been the most influential organization in my personal and professional development. Over the years I have been a member, I have become more confident, more action orientated, and better able to accomplish the goals I have established for myself. With that being said, there is one trap that Toastmasters has created and I wonder if you have fallen into it yourself.
What is the trap?
Imagine for a moment that you are in a presentation outside of a Toastmasters meeting. As you sit there listening to the speaker, what do you notice?
- Is the speaker pacing the room in a way that is annoying?
- Does the speaker laugh too hard at his or her own jokes?
- Did the speaker point directly at someone in the audience?
- Was the speaker using ums, ahs, you knows, and other filler words?
- Did the speaker not have a clear opening, body, and closing?
If that is all you picked up from the speaker, then you have fallen into the trap.
The trap is expecting every speaker to speak like a Toastmaster.
As a Toastmaster, you learn a system for speaking more effectively. The Toastmasters system makes you more confident, effective, and better prepared as a speaker. What the system also does is create a trap that makes you believe that every speaker has to speak like a Toastmaster.
The secret to being a respected speaker is not that you have eliminated filler words, but that you have changed the lives of the audience for the better.
If you have a desire to become a professional speaker, then know that the person that is writing the check is not deducting money for each um and uh. They are paying you to make a lasting impact on the lives of the audience. This can be done with or without the techniques taught by Toastmasters.
I was reminded of this fact when I was reading a public speaking advice blog. The writer of the blog was critiquing one of the most highly paid coaches and speakers in the world, Marshall Goldsmith. In his critique, he talked about the bad habits Marshall had and how it distracted from his effectiveness as a speaker.
Having read Marshall Goldsmith’s bestselling book, I was interested, so I watched the video the blog referenced:
Was laughing at his own jokes annoying?
Did he not follow all of the “rules” of public speaking?
Yes, but that video changed my life for the better. After the first few moments, it didn’t matter what habits he had. All that mattered is that I am far better off in life after watching the presentation. That is more than I can say from many technically perfect presentations I have seen.
Do we need to continue to improve our speaking habits?
Yes, but the most important part of the speech is the message. Focusing on the techniques can be a trap for many Toastmasters and loosening up a little on “the rules” could be good for us all.