Ask any CEO and they will agree. Ask any Recruiter and they will concur. Ask any Manager and they will affirm that the most valuable skill an employee can have is the ability to communicate. There is no skill more valuable than that of oral and written communication.
You can have all the technical knowledge in the world, but if you cannot convey that knowledge to peers and subordinates in a manner that they can comprehend, then you hinder your professional growth. You can have amazing academic achievements and dozens of designations and degrees, but if you cannot talk confidently in front of people, your career will suffer.
Look at it this way. You have a wonderful resume. You send it to the company you want to work for (or the department you want to post into at your current place of employment). They read about all of your achievements and are very impressed with you. They call you in for an interview. You obviously had the written communication skills to get the interview. However, do you have the oral communication skills to win the job?
Will you walk into that interview with the three C’s of S.U.C.C.C.E.S.S.S: Calm… Confident…Creative; or will you walk into that interview and take the S’s out of success with your Stuttering, Stalling and Stammering after every question. The answer lies in how well you have prepared yourself. Have you been continually practicing your oral presentation skills by way of networking, impromptu speaking, or joining speaking organizations? If you have, many job offers and promotional opportunities await you. If you are like the majority of people who fear speaking more than death and so they avoid it like the plague, then you will likely find your future to be marred in mediocrity and limited advancement opportunities. Those that move up the ladder of success not only possess the technical knowledge, they can also communicate it well to others.
At this point, you are probably wondering how you can go about increasing your oral communication skills. Well, there are several organizations available to you that specialize in teaching effective communication skills. Two of the largest organizations are Toastmasters International (www.toastmasters.org) and International Training in Communications (ITC, www.brunnet.net/itc). Each has a web site available that will advise you on local clubs in your area.
Personally, I have been a member of Toastmasters since 1995. My club has helped me improve my communication skills immensely. I can honestly say that I have had several job offers primarily because I listed Toastmasters on my resume. Employers immediately recognize me as an individual dedicated to increasing his communication and leadership skills. The salary increases I have realized have far outweighed the nominal membership fees.
What exactly is Toastmasters? Well, I am so glad you asked me that question. Simply put, Toastmasters is the world’s leading communication and leadership organization geared towards making effective communication a worldwide reality. To date, they have trained over 3 million men and women in the art of effective communication.
Every major city in the United States has one, and most likely several, Toastmasters club. In order to be a member, you simply have to be 18 years old. There is a $16 one-time initiation fee, and then it is $18 every six months thereafter. To be honest with you, it is the best $36 a year I have ever invested. The promotional opportunities I have received at my jobs have made my return on investment percentage absolutely phenomenal.
Allow me to go into a little more detail about the make-up and flow of the club. Depending on the club, they may meet as infrequently as once a month or as much as once a week. The meetings typically last one hour. Members of the club are assigned roles for the meeting. There is a Toastmaster for the meeting who is charged with preparing the agenda and ensuring the meeting flows smoothly. This role teaches you how to effectively control a meeting when you have to do it (and you will have to do it) at work some day. There is also a speaker for the day who will do a 5-7 minute speech on the subject he/she chooses. The speech is created based on direction from a manual you will receive from Toastmasters International. Each speech assignment gives you a new skill to develop, such as show what you mean (hand gestures), speak with sincerity (be persuasive), speak with knowledge (a read speech), etc. Once you have given all 10 manual speeches, you receive a CTM (Competent Toastmaster) designation; and you can put those letters after your name if you wish.
Also, each meeting has an evaluator, who has the job of giving a 2-3 minute evaluation of the speech. The evaluator has to provide constructive feedback to the speaker (which can be a daunting task, especially if it was a horrible speech and you have to find something nice to say about it!). Being evaluator prepares you for that future management opportunity when you will have an employee sitting across the table from you nervously awaiting you to discuss their performance appraisal. Be nice!
Probably the most important role is that of Topicmaster. In this role, you would come up with questions (any questions you chose) to ask members of the club. They then have to stand up and give a 1-2 minute response to that question. This exercise prepares you for those nerve-racking situations when you have to be able to speak off the cuff, such as at a job interview. Believe me when I say that one day you will be so thankful that you had the practice! I could go on and on about the benefits of this organization. To learn more about Toastmasters, find a club near you, and get speaking tips, go to their web site at www.toastmasters.org.
So answer me this: What are your future goals? Do you seek greater employment opportunities, wage increases, and promotions? If so, then ask yourself “Do I currently use my C’s in or take the S’s out of S.U.C.C.C.E.S.S.S.? If you use your C’s, you are ahead of the game. If you use those S’s, you are not even in the game. Time to get in it!
Kendall Isaac, the mind motivator, is a motivational speaker and career coach. He trains individuals and organizations on effective communication skills and setting and achieving career objectives. His mission statement is summed up in an IDEA: "If Determined...Excellence Awaits." You can reach him at (614) 580-3150 or email@example.com.
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