Since the dawn of people speaking, no one is born with the ability to "talk turkey," or has the "gift of gab" because explicit, expressive and effective speaking is a learned skill.
Long identified as a personal and professional asset, the first known handbook teaching good speaking was written in Egypt more than 4,500 years ago. Great speakers such as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. applied the principles of persuasive speaking as taught in Aristotle's third century B.C. guidebook, because his exceptional insights and methods still apply today.
Over the past few decades countless research entities, universities and corporate human resources departments have conducted annual studies assessing business communication aptitudes. Their findings have verified and emphasized such grave realities as: "The ability to listen and to communicate are the most important factors in the employment, the retaining and the promotability of employees, even more important than ambition, education and hard work."
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching elaborated that "76 percent (or 13 of the 17) business training courses they provide are communication specific, i.e., interviewing, listening, work relationships, motivating, selling, making presentations, conducting meetings, leadership, team building, performance appraisals, managing conflict, negotiations, problem solving and managing a diverse work force."
Further revelations are: "Today's business environment greatly accentuates the urgent need for good, effective communication. It is outright critical to a company's success." Additionally, "This nation's crisis of lowered educational standards is also a business crisis. There is a monumental need for the past proficiencies of teaching good communication skills." These findings cut across large and small firms, technical companies and service-oriented operations, family businesses and publicly held firms.
These business executives and eminent educators agree "... the greatest 'success secret' that leads to improved performance for greater influence - effectiveness to teach, convince or persuade - and ability to excite, inspire, motivate and sell is ... enhanced communication skills."
These studies verified that no matter how detailed or well scripted a presentation, the typical listener judges not only what is said, but how it is said, and forms a lasting acceptance or denial mindset within the first one to two minutes of a conversation, presentation or speech. Additional findings substantiated that the average presentation to motivate does not motivate, it simply informs, whereas a winning presentation develops a message and delivery that drives results. It makes something happen, it moves the listeners from "I get it." to "I'll do it!" This skill is akin to the Arabian proverb describing an orator: "One who can make men see with their ears."
Universally, people who communicate well are perceived to be more intelligent and possess greater leadership qualities. However, people who have minimal level speaking training may believe they are adept, when actually their oratory holds them back from achieving their maximum potential. They have not learned and practiced how to:
create a context,
give a presentation or speech focus, direction and value,
understand proper word selection,
engage an audience,
maintain the listeners' interest,
inspire listeners to action,
speak emotionally and passionately,
realize the importance of timing,
know platform presence,
appear and speak confidently,
recognize what their body language is saying,
know the three basic factors of beginner's communication competence.
And a final flaw - they do not prepare, practice, then present to their experienced peers for candid evaluation of their proficiencies to enable them to improve.
The effective presentation or speech must be clear, concise, flow logically, be energetic, persuasive and genuine. It must be conversational, sound well-informed, and authoritative. While your message may be selling your idea, product or service, you are also selling yourself. Consequently, in the long run, your image, the success of your endeavor and, your reputation are at stake. People admire a great athlete who studies and trains harder and longer to increase their skills to gain a competitive advantage. Why then doesn't it make equal sense that people dependent on their speaking skills in their occupations, would study and practice to enrich those skills to produce greater successes?
Neither employers, nor their employees, can afford the time and expense to re-enter the academic world to acquire first-rate speaking skills. However, this skill is essential to promote success in today's ever increasingly competitive businesses. This is particularly true for basic educated workers or those just out of college. These unseasoned "free spirits" will find their nonsensical, twaddle style of speaking is not acceptable in interviews ... or in the workplace, and few have the maturity or savvy as yet to understand that today "perception in the workplace is the reality."
For companies and for individuals, there is a local, most beneficial and cost-effective solution. It is Toastmasters International. Toastmasters are world known as an 88-year-old, nonprofit, educational organization with over 13,500 active clubs in 116 countries. The Toastmasters organization is dedicated to teaching superior communication skills (listening, thinking and speaking,) plus leadership skills in a self-paced, non-threatening, supportive and enjoyable "club" atmosphere.
Members learn from the manual lessons, the weekly meeting's practices and from the experienced Toastmasters members. They gain experience and self-confidence by practice speaking in the safe, sympathetic and helpful environment of the club. In addition, following their practice speeches, they learn from both oral and written evaluations they receive which provide praise for things done well, and constructive, encouraging suggestions for improvements. The comprehensive program teaches: the fundamentals, advanced skills and techniques, practice methods and provides the priority element - opportunities to "trial run" lesson skills for peer evaluation.
Anyone 18 years old and over, desiring to learn and acquire this valuable career, social and "at home" skill has the opportunity. Any Toastmasters Club welcomes interested visitors and new members.
Many District 19 (Iowa) Toastmasters were in Fort Dodge Friday and Saturday for our group's annual Spring Conference. There were six educational sessions scheduled, an exceptional keynote speaker and two speaking contests testing members' skills. The winner proceeds to the International Convention of Toastmasters this August in Ohio to compete against eight other worldwide winners for the title of World Champion of Speaking. The membership also elected district officers for the 2013-2014 year beginning July 1. The Fort Dodge "Ah" Masters Toastmasters Club hosted the event at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn and Suites.
Jacque Johanson is the current president of the local "Ah" Masters Toastmasters Club No. 2791. She is a past governor of the district that encompasses most of Iowa.