Someone recently asked what I’d recommend as the one single thing they could do that would help their writing the most. I answered with one word: Toastmasters.
Most people think of Toastmasters as an organization devoted to improving members’ speaking skills. It definitely does that — with a number of fringe benefits. The primary value of Toastmasters is the practice you gain in learning to organize your thoughts. To make a point in the five to seven minutes available for club speeches, you must pare your material down to its bare essence. There is no time for clutter or extra material.
This process of digging for golden nuggets of meaning transfers into all areas of communication. Your conversation becomes more precise. If you are in sales, you’re better equipped to assess needs and define benefits with laser-like precision. If you teach, you’ll l deliver streamlined lectures that emphasize the main message in a smooth and logical flow.
Your writing will become lean and spare.
When I joined Toastmasters in 1980, I thought I knew how to speak in public because I’d been able to stand in front of a classroom twice a week and dissert for three hours at a whack. Balderdash! I knew how to blather. Presenting an effective speech is quite another matter. I became a Toastmasters junkie. At one point I was an officer in three different weekly clubs and I often attended one or two others in addition. Friends made joking references to Twelve-Step programs.
The organization served me well, and I remain a steadfast supporter. Today I seldom give a formal presentation, but I continually give thanks as I write for the practice in quickly finding and framing a message.
I highly recommend Toastmasters for anyone of any age who wants to become a more effective communicator in any mode. You can find a club near you on the Toastmasters website. Check it out. You’ll learn some valuable skills, and probably make some fantastic new friends to boot.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergalfont></font>