There is an old joke about a tourist who is visiting New York City. He wants to see a concert at the famous Carnegie Hall.  The tourist stops a man on the street and asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”  The man replies, “Practice!”

It is the same with public speaking and, indeed, most skills.  You can read all the information you want (including this blog) but you will never improve without actually standing up in front of people and speaking.  It’s like the Nike commercials: Just Do It!

Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contest

One of the most effective, economical and fun ways in which to get practice is Toastmasters.  The easiest way for me to describe Toastmasters is to quote from the Toastmasters International website:

“From a humble beginning in 1924 at the YMCA in Santa Ana, California, Toastmasters International has grown to become a world leader in helping people become more competent and comfortable in front of an audience.  The nonprofit organization now has nearly 235,000 members in 12,036 clubs in 106 countries, offering a proven – and enjoyable! – way to practice and hone communication and leadership skills.

“Most Toastmasters meetings are comprised of approximately 20 people who meet weekly for an hour or two. Participants practice and learn skills by filling a meeting role, ranging from giving a prepared speech or an impromptu one to serving as timer, evaluator or grammarian.

“There is no instructor; instead, each speech and meeting is critiqued by a member in a positive manner, focusing on what was done right and what could be improved.”

If you are not a member, I encourage you to visit the Toastmasters International website to learn more about it.  Full details are there.  On the home page, there is a link on the left side that allows you to look for clubs near you.  Most clubs have their own websites with details about local membership, meeting times and location, etc. My club is the International Geneva Toastmasters Club.

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  1. I love Toastmasters! I’ve been a member for about 10 months now. I just got voted in as VP of Education and have no doubt that my confidence as a business woman and presenter is directly related to my attendance at our bi-weekly Toastmasters meetings. Before joining, I was reserved, shy and prone to being a wallflower … now, watch out! Quality critiquing is what helped give me the confidence to train at an association’s national conference in Las Vegas; to present a 10-minute introduction of my business to a networking group; to consider becoming a motivational speaker in another year or two. I definitely have received more from Toastmasters than I did in the college level public speaking classes that I have taken.

  2. Toastmasters rocks! I’m a 10-year member, and Toastmasters led me to my passion and now vocation as a speech coach and professional speaker. Choosing to go to Toastmasters was one of my smartest choices ever!

  3. Hi John! I don’t think I have enough space here to express how much Toastmasters has helped me out. Being Filipino, English is a second language to us. Though we are considered the best English-speaking nation in Asia, a large majority of us still struggle with the language. Toastmasters has helped many of us learn to communicate better and, thus, lead better.
    Personally, it has even given me a new career. I am now a paid writer and public speaker. Toastmasters not only improved my speaking skills, it improved my writing skills even more!
    I agree with Charlene and Rich … Toastmasters rocks!!!

  4. Agree entirely with your comments regarding the benefits and opportunities in every Toastmasters meeting to gain speaking practice. It’s such an encouraging environment in which to try things out. I often think I’m exaggerating something, only to find when I watch the video of my prepared speeches that I could have been even more emphatic. And the use of the buzzer by the Ah counter dropped my ums & ers down from 17 per evening to almost 0. My fellow TM members also helped me iron out my distracting foot shuffle and meaningless hand gestures.

    I wasn’t that committed for a long time, so I took several years to gain the competant communicator award, but I really took off after that. A year or so later, and I am one speech away from the Advanced Bronze, and have nearly finished the first leadership award. I think the leadership tasks give a much greater insight into the way the Toastmasters process works and I am a much more effective member and mentor as a result.

    I can report real results from Toastmasters training too. I now seek out speaking opportunities with enthusiasm at local business organisations. Now, every time I address a business group, I tend to land a new client for our PR company. Before Toastmasters, my verbal abilities were mainly of the written variety and I didn’t seek out many speaking opportunities. And when I did speak, I certainly didn’t land a client per speech! How useful is persuasive speech-making ability during a recession?

    My TM club, Capital Communicators in Edinburgh has just started a second TM club: Waverley Communicators, which is just as friendly and offers a lot more opportunities to speak because it’s smaller. I’ve signed up for both as each club meets fortnightly on alternate weeks, so I can have weekly TM training. It’s excellent value for money too.
    If you happen to be in Edinburgh tomorrow night (or fortnightly thereafter), do drop in to Waverley Communicators on the 8th floor, Jury’s Inn, Market Street. 7.15pm for a 7.30 start. Or a week later, on Tuesday nights, same time, at 28 Great King Street, we have Capital Communicators’ meetings. We get a lot of visiting Toastmasters in Edinburgh during the annual arts festivals in August. Existing and potential Toastmasters members are all very welcome at any time. Potential members can attend 3 times free of charge before they have to decide whether to sign up.

  5. Every time I explain what Toastmasters is, I usually get a few funny looks before the light bulb comes on and people realize “What a great idea!”. It has been a great ride for the last 2 1/2 years and this year’s trip through the International Speech Contest has been super cool.
    I, as well, could never properly explain what being in the club has meant to me and how much it has truly made my life better. Even If I never give another speech, I have made friends that will be a part of my life forever and have learned so much about people and the process of speaking.
    Great post!

  6. Wonderful Video, I learned a lot from it, and what great body language too! I loved of course your message; one thinks that what we say will not be judged, but it is! It has to be of course!
    Thanks for offering this to us!

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International