Want to practice public speaking, improve your communication and build leadership skills without breaking your budget? One international not-for-profit organization is dedicated to empowering individuals to achieve greater self-confidence and personal growth at an affordable rate.
Toastmasters International is a global organization that provides education, communications training and leadership development through experiential learning.
“People are learning these skills through applying them,” says Toastmasters District Director Michael Bown. “Ultimately, growth leads to greater confidence.”
Established in 1924, Toastmasters activities revolve around a local club. There are nearly 17,000 individual clubs around the world with 16 different Toastmasters clubs in Richmond, including an in-house club at the City of Richmond for their employees.
“Richmond is very supportive as a city,” Bown says.
Toastmasters offers members Pathways, an educational program with 11 different areas of focus.
“Let’s say you want to learn more about management and strategic leadership, that’s an option,” Bown says. “Or if you want to have fun and build your confidence, there’s an educational path you can take that focuses on humorous speaking.”
Toastmasters is a supportive and positive environment, where there is zero pressure on members to speak until they are comfortable.
“This is a self-paced program,” Bown says. “You don’t have to get up there and speak until you’re ready. And when you do, everyone is encouraging. There is support all along the way. We want everyone to be the best and work together to be the best we can be.”
For those who aren’t shy about speaking in public, Toastmasters holds speech competitions for presentations that are between five and seven minutes long. Beginning at the club level, successful entrants could potentially make it all the way to the World Championship of Public Speaking this August in Paris, France.
“People are excited about the location of the finals, and it’s motivation to compete,” Bown says.
Toastmasters clubs are always free to visit. To find a club near you, visit www.toastmasters.org.