Who: Toastmasters International regional officers Kristina Kihlberg and Liz Taschereau.
What: Toastmasters International is a nonprofit organization designed to help people develop, practice and fine-tune their communication and leadership skills. Members present a prepared or an impromptu speech; others in the group provide support and feedback.
Toastmasters serves as a back-drop for people to network for new jobs, career-building and mentoring.
The backstory: Like hundreds of Toastmasters members, Taschereau and Kihlberg credit their participation in Toastmasters with their career successes. There are about 5,000 members in the South Florida district which includes the Bahamas.
Taschereau is member services manager of the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward Economic Development Alliance. She joined a local Toastmasters chapter in 2001 when she was studying to get her real estate license. She wanted to be able to organize her thoughts and think on her feet. "I think I'm very smart," said Taschereau. ""But in front of a group, I would not speak up."
It all came together and "helped take away the fear and anxiety," said Taschereau who has held various chapter and Broward County regional leadership positions with Toastmasters. So when the economy – and real estate market - soured, Taschereau put out job applications and was well-prepared to go through the interview process and get hired as an investor relations coordinator before getting promoted to her current position. "In this job I have to be able to connect successfully and powerfully over the phone," she said.
Kihlberg, who is from Gothenburg, Sweden, joined Toastmasters in 2002 as a way to make acquaintances, create career opportunities, improve her presentation skills and enhance her English vocabulary. Most recently Kihlberg has been a Toastmasters district governor. Coming from the cruise industry Kihlberg was a high-energy people person. But she knew channeling her enthusiasm and vigor into leadership skills would open new doors. "Toastmasters pushed that out in me," said Kihlberg. Subsequently she worked for BankAtlantic's WOW University teaching employees customer service and then supervised the bank's "7's," a team of employees who dressed up as the number seven, during one of the bank's promotional campaigns.
Toastmasters participants are challenged in public speaking contests at regional and national levels such as the upcoming non-stop speaking marathon to break a Guinness Record beginning June 10 at the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale. (Register at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The annual Toastmasters International Convention, in August in Palm Desert, Ca., features semifinalists from around the world vying for the title "World Champion of Public Speaking." (Visit http://www.toastmasters.org/2010Convention)
The take-away: "The ability to communicate powerfully can be the difference between getting a job or not," said Taschereau. "It's about listening. It's about getting people to really hear the message."
Public speaking tips:
Know your subject matter and your audience when giving a public address.
Fine-tune your speech. Build your comments around the main point so you have a single, powerful primary take-home message.
Don't read your speech word for word.
Avoid nervous mannerisms such fidgeting, swaying, lip biting, key jingling.
Cindy Kent can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4662. Follow her on Twitter.com @mindingyourbiz