How I grew my career through Toastmasters

April 21, 2020

I’ve been part of Toastmasters since January 2014. I was an intern and joined the club to get a job. Instead of getting a job, I got bitten by the public speaking bug. During my third internship I joined Salesforce Toastmasters. The Toastmasters club was one of the reasons I returned to Salesforce upon graduation, and I was an active member there for 5 years. Overall I’ve been a Toastmaster member for 7+ years and served as a past President and current Division Director. Here are three ways on how Toastmasters has benefited my career.

Seek speaking opportunities at work

An experienced Toastmater is a confident speaker with a vast repertoire of speaking experiences. He/she has spoken at various settings, whether that is MCing an online contest, facilitating a panel, or delivering a workshop. Having done all of the above at Toastmasters, I’m confident delivering an experience on front of hundreds of coworkers, whether that is facilitating a panel, MCing a hackathon, or grabbing a 30 minute coffee with a new colleague. How does Toastmasters help with grabbing coffee with someone!? First, you are speaking with another person, so it is public speaking. Second, standard Toastmaster meetings have a section of Table Topics, where you ask questions to get another person to talk for 1 to 2 minutes. Grabbing coffee is one of the many ways I seek speaking opportunities at work, and having Toastmasters experience gives me a boost of confidence.

Craft, tailor, and refine your message

After netting a speaking opportunity, what do you say? Crafting the message, like any skill, gets better with more practice. My first speech took 12 hours of preparation, now my prep time is < 1 hour on many occasions. The message also needs to be tailored to the audience: at Salesforce Toastmasters the audience hungered for my personal finance talks, since tech professionals are interested in accumulating wealth. During the Toastmaster’s competition season, the topic turns to self-development to appeal to a wider demographic. Additionally Toastmasters members give feedback on how to refine the mesasge. This includes feedback on content, ie. I’m notorious for having too much content, and also the delivery, ie. replace filler words (umms, so’s) with pauses. I make sure I get feedback on my speeches, especially the speeches for work, to improve my speaking skills.

Seek leadership experience at work

I sought leadership opportunities at Toastmasters to deliver amazing experiences by enlisting the most accomplished, motivated Toastmaster members to be part of my initiatives. Here’s a sample of initiatives I delivered:

  • Organized, staffed, and delivered 3 trainings in one month, resulting in ~120 Toastmasters officers trained
  • Organized, staffed, and delivered 2 online contests, one with 70+ attendance
  • Was accountable for 25 clubs spanning ~700 Toastmaster members, by working with 4 area directors, each covering 5 clubs

With these experiences I’ve ran hackathons at work, and this week I’m moderating a panel of coworkers. Because working with good people and delivering rewarding experiences has an exponentail effect on everyone involved. I’ve gone from a shy intern seeking a job to a confident professional seeking opportunities to assemble teams to deliver wonderful experiences. Any team initative is also a speaking opportunity, where I practice crafting, tailoring, and refining a message. Hence Toastmasters is fully applicable, and a great testing ground for communication and leadership skills.