People fear public speaking more than death, generally speaking. That should clue you into something. Public speaking is a path most of your competitors avoid.
Learning this skill not only gets you ahead of the competition, but impacts your business in more ways than you might think. Let’s see how.
Full disclosure: I’ve been a Toastmasters since 2011 and it has been the single most valuable investment I’ve made.
Learn to Simplify Your Message
Much like writing an essay, preparing and delivering a speech clarifies your message. After your first few speeches, you’ll see listeners forget or confuse anything complicated. The clearer your message, the better.
This lesson creates value across your business. Your marketing and advertising becomes more effective. Your sales calls are short and polished. Potential investors understand your idea better and faster. Best of all, your employees are aligned when ideas are simple.
Deliver clear messages and watch the magic happen.
Learn to Speak off the Cuff
I’ll bet a good part of your day involves speaking with clients, employees, co-founders and investors. Odds are they bring up unexpected questions all the time. How smooth are your answers?
We all have the ability to speak extemporaneously (a fancy pants word for speaking without preparation). When you chat with your friends, spouse and family you are speaking off the cuff. With a the right practice, you can build on that foundation.
At Toastmasters, there is a section called Table Topics. Attendees are randomly called upon and asked to give an answer to a question. Sometimes it’s a serious interview question, other times it’s completely off the wall (Can you explain why you chose to ride your unicycle to work instead of your elephant?)
After a few tries, you’ll learn how to buy thinking time, respond with a convincing answer, then tie it up with a nice bow.
The next time an employee catches you off guard or an investor asks a hard hitting question, you can respond with grace.
Learn how to Give and Receive Feedback
Jack Welch, one of my favorite business icons, says lack of candor is the biggest dirty little secret in business.
The truth can hurt and most of us don’t like hurting people. Ironically the truth can hurt in the moment, but has a positive long term effect. Avoiding the truth feels good now, but has a negative long term effect.
Most people are uncomfortable giving or receiving candid feedback. Yet clear and honest feedback takes the brakes off of your performance as an individual and as a business.
At Toastmasters, you give speeches and also evaluate others. You listen, take notes and afterwards you deliver 2-3 minutes of feedback. A typical evaluation discusses what you liked and areas for improvement.
At my club, I’m known as an exceptional evaluator. Why? I’m honest. They get better at speaking and I get better at being candid.
Imagine if you could deliver honest feedback to your staff. How about if they gave you honest feedback as well? How much better would your business be a week, a month, a year from now?
Upgrade Your Peer Group
Ordinary people don’t study public speaking. It’s not easy to work a 10 hour day, then volunteer to deliver a speech in front of a group of strangers. Who does that?
People you want to be around.
Have you ever heard that you are a combination of the five people you spend the most time with? If that’s true, shouldn’t you spend time with people seeking to improve themselves?
I’ve seen businesses form in Toastmasters clubs. I’ve seen people hire within the club. I’ve seen entrepreneurs get investment connections. Public speaking clubs attract motivated people. Why aren’t you there?
How to Join a Public Speaking Club
Go to the Toastmasters website and find a club near you. Spend a week or two visiting clubs in your area and join the one you like most.
Toastmasters is the cheapest, most effective personal development training on the planet. For an investment of a few hours a week and $45 every six months what are you waiting for?
One last tip: You get out what you put in. Take it seriously and it will be an investment with exponential returns.