Integrating Three Toastmasters Concepts into Your Presentations
By Laura Lane
Are you a great speaker? Are you presenting at your best? Many, if not most, of us in career services make presentations quite frequently to all kinds of groups of clients, staff or other stakeholders. I thought I was a good presenter of career workshops and speeches, then I found out how I could take my presentation skills to the next level.
Toastmasters Teaches and Supports Presenters
Toastmasters could help you and your staff. Perhaps as a career practitioner you work in a non-profit agency or a private practice that presents to groups of unemployed, potential sponsors, or other local government agencies (e.g., chamber of commerce) to spread the word about your mission or raise money for the cause. If so, you will want to make the best presentation you can.
First, a little bit about Toastmasters International: Toastmasters (2018) is in 142 countries, with 15,900 clubs worldwide, 8,800 of those clubs are in the U.S., with a total of 345,000 members. The mission of a Toastmasters Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every individual member has the opportunity to develop oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth. This mission resonated with me and what I want for my students and the people that I assist. Toastmasters is a complement to NCDA and the work that we do in serving clients to find a path and be their best.
Here are three tips from Toastmasters that you may want to incorporate into your next presentation.
1. Bookend your speech. When you bookend your speech you provide a certain emphasis on your opening and closing. By opening your speech and concluding your speech with an element of commonality and creativity, you provide symmetry for the speech you deliver. Bookending your speech is a sophisticated technique, and conveys that your speech was written thoughtfully and with accuracy. This technique can boost your credibility and show that you can be trusted as your audience will likely conclude that you put the same care and attention into writing the rest of your speech.
Here are a few examples:
- Start your presentation by asking a question. Close the presentation by answering the question.
- Open your speech with a quotation from someone your audience knows (Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Jobs, etc.), and close the speech by referring back to the quotation or utilizing a new one.
- Put an image in the first slide, like a deer in headlights, and ask if the audience feels that way about interviewing. In closing, show the deer in headlights again, and ask if audience members feel better about interviewing than when they walked in.
2. Use the rule of three. Utilizing this rule allows you to express concepts more completely, emphasize your points and increase the memorability of your message. “That’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” The use of words or phrases in threes is all around us. Think about it and you will start to see it everywhere. The Fire Safety Motto is, “Stop, Drop and Roll.” The Olympic motto is, “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” The Real Estate Motto is, “Location, Location, Location.” Three is more powerful than a series of two or series of four points or ideas. Try using the Rule of Three the next time you write a speech.
- Resumes—Content, Format, and Image for an Effective Resume
- Interviewing—Before, During and After the Interview
- Networking—The Why, The How, and the Who of Networking.
3. Utilize pauses. The effective use of pauses during your presentation is a master technique and can elevate your speech to the next level. There are many benefits to using pauses effectively:
- Pauses help your audience understand you. Pauses allow you to punctuate your spoken words, giving your listeners clues as to when one phrase, one sentence, or one paragraph ends, and the next begins.
- Pauses control the overall pace of your delivery. Your audience has cognitive limitations, and is unable to absorb information beyond a certain rate. Pauses allow you to slow your rate to match the listening capacity of your audience.
- Pauses help engage your audience. Speaking without pauses means your audience expends all their effort just to keep up with you. Using pauses on the other hand, gives your audience time to reflect on your words, and start making connections with their own experiences or knowledge in real time. Forming these personal connections with your content is the basis of audience engagement.
There is a great deal more that Toastmasters can teach you for your next speech in addition to the above three examples, such as delivering a persuasive speech, using vocal variety to engage your audience, accessing the value of giving and receiving constructive feedback. The founder of Toastmasters, Ralph Smedley, said, “Ours is the only organization I know dedicated to the individual, we work together to bring out the best in each of us and then we apply these skills to help others." Check out a Toastmasters club near you to bring out the best in you, and your clients as well: https://www.toastmasters.org/find-a-club
Toastmasters International. (2018). Who we are. Retrieved from https://www.toastmasters.org/about/who-we-are
Laura Lane is Sector Director for Marketing and Media, Entertainment, Sports at The Duke University Fuqua School of Business. Laura is passionate about helping students find their career fit and how best to pursue a career path utilizing a variety of theories, tools, and exercises. She has worked in higher education for over 20 years, primarily in career services, at a diverse array of academic institutions, Laura has been a Toastmaster for five years and is a member of Chapel Hill Toastmasters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.