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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Corporate Toastmasterring

Toastmasters from my club, JJ, Pat,Gege
and Alvin won the recent area 16 contest.
What do big companies like San Miguel Corp, Aboitiz, Meralco, Accenture and several others have in common aside from their being giant companies? You guessed it right, they've all benefited from investing in their employees' training via Toastmasters (T.M.). Now, it would be presumptuous of me to say that they are successful because of Toastmasters, I wouldn't go that far, but I'd bet that having the club helped their participating employees become more effective in what they do and why not? TM train club members a lot more than public speaking as commonly thought of by people who
are familiar with it. My task today is to give you a clear idea of what you and your companies stand to gain from sending your employees to TM meetings or putting up your own corporate TM club.

Let me give you an insider's blow by blow account of what members gain from joining TM.

Self Confidence
We know very well what confidence can do to a person. It makes them bolder and daring to pursue their tasks and goals. In TM meetings, club members get confidence boost from positive reinforcement coming from helpful members. The club provides a safe learning environment that allows members to experiment and make mistakes without paying a high price for it.

Think on their feet
The club meeting's impromptu segment more commonly known among members as table topics portion help members to well, think on their feet, literally! In this segment of the meeting, members are asked to respond to a topic or situation by standing in front and speaking for about two minutes. Why is this useful? We don't always prepare what we are going to say. A lot of times we are thrown into a situation wherein we need to give a decent response. Our ability to organize our thoughts and structure our message to get it across effectively is a vital skill.

Speak in front of people with competence
Each member of the club gets a number of manuals on communication and leadership. The basic communication manual contains 10 basic speech projects that allow members to learn how to speak in public properly. They learn speech organization, body language, vocal variety, speak to inform, inspire, call to action etc. And we are only talking about the basic manual here. I personally have finished my basic speech, done my entertaining speaker manual and am now working on my professional speaker manual. There are bunch of other speech projects for just about any speaking tasks. How good is that?!

Leadership
Club members take on leadership responsibilities in the club as presidents, vice presidents and a host of other functions. They do not only learn from the leadership manual of the club, they learn about leadership hands-on. And you know what they say about experience, it really is the best teacher.

Correct grammar use
Every meeting a club member takes on the role of grammarian where he or she is tasked with listening to the utterance of members and give evaluation on the use or misuse of the English language. You might have guessed by now that this is where I really need help! :)

Coaching
Experienced members get to coach and mentor new members. Thru this, members learn through practice the importance and techniques of the coaching task. They learn to care about the progress of their wards and device ways to help them. We all know how important coaching skill is in the corporate setting.

Performance Evaluation
If there is something extra special that I learned from TM, it is how to evaluate and give feedback that help improve performance, motivate and boost member's confidence. Imagine if all your managers can do that. During club meeting some members are assigned to evaluate other members. Through this exercise they learn to use the sandwich approach where they comment, recommend and commend the performance of their fellow members. There is hardly a situation when I am not thankful to my evaluators and have not learned something to improve on from them. Imagine your employees feeling the same way that I do all the time I am evaluated because your managers evaluate them the TM way.

Listening
Who had formal training in listening, raise your hands? Too few are trained to listen; much of our training is on how to get our message across. No wonder there is so much miscommunication. Most of us are trained to throw but don’t know how to catch! In TM, members are taught to listen and listen intently not just hear. They learn how to reflect on what people say, pay attention to body language and form opinion. If you also believe in the importance of this skill then you'll find TM as a worthwhile investment of time, money and effort.

Discipline and time management
TM members are sticklers for time. Club meetings have to begin and end on time. Each meeting segment is timed. Members are evaluated on their use of their time in the club meeting. To come in late is one of the most embarrassing things. It’s not because a member gets a dressing down. No, we don't do that in TM, its embarrassing because to come in late is to fail to meet one of the disciplines of the club.

Regular Doses of Life Lessons
Club meetings are not just opportunities to learn all the things I have already mentioned but also an opportunity to learn from the wisdom and experience of others. The amounts of lessons you get in small doses are awesome, simply awesome!

Did I cover everything? If I deliver this as a speech in TM, I'll bet that my evaluator will point out that I missed this and that but not without telling me how she appreciates how well I covered the most important benefits of joining a TM club. (Fellow Toastmasters who are reading this, please help me out and comment on what I left out)

If you find everything that I wrote here interesting, wait till you hear the cost. I paid around PhP 3,000 at first and then paid around 2,000 every six months! (The cost depends on where your club meets and if meals are served during meeting) How can you beat that?! I've been around training long enough to say that you will find no other place in this world that can give you as much value for your training money than TM! Oh by the way, your investment comes with a great set of manuals, a monthly magazine of useful TM topics aside from the golden lessons I have already mentioned.

If what I said got you interested, I suggest that you visit a TM club near you now! My club ButterNToast meets every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month. Our next meeting is on march 8 at the penthouse of old Makati Stock Exchange in Ayala Ave. Our meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. If you find my club too far, visit this site to find the club nearest you: http://www.toastmasters.org.ph There are more than a hundred clubs located all over the Philippines and a lot more outside the country.

Call or email me if you need more info or help in putting up your own corporate club. But if you want to hear my opinion; if your company is not as big as the companies I mentioned above, you'll be better off sending your employees to community clubs. Why? Because community clubs like our own are full of amazing people who came from different walks of life and various experiences. Exposing your employees to Toastmasters with various and rich experience can contribute to their professional and personal development. Isn't that way cooler?

But hey, I am not against forming a corporate club! I’ve seen corporate clubs rise to stardom in the TM circle. There are also a lot of smaller companies that set-up their clubs and continue to benefit from it. The success of corporate clubs though depend a lot on the championing of the CEO or HRD Head. The best way to support it is to be a part of it. Don’t just support it financially, participate in the club activities. This is the best way to not only sharpen your own saw but to find out who among your employees have sharpened theirs and are ready for higher or bigger responsibilities.

Hey, think about it huh!

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