The Art of Speaking  

Secret of success

What every leader should know and practise: 
The most important, yet unexpected skill I learned at Toastmasters

By Christy Webb

I once read a quote by voice coach Roger Love that deeply resonated with me:

“All speaking is public speaking whether it’s to one person or a thousand.”

I immediately knew that was true and that I had to hone my speaking skills, which is why I joined Toastmasters.

The goal was simple, be a better public speaker, for which I thought a year of practise would be sufficient. I didn’t think there was more to this communication group than just practising that one skill.

However, I quickly discovered that the true learning came when I closed my mouth. 

Active listening is not what I thought I would learn in Toastmasters; yet here I am, almost three years after attending my first club meeting, a changed person because of this skill.

On average, it has been said that we retain just 25 per cent of what we hear.

Imagine that! You only recall 25 per cent of what your clients, your employees, your co-workers say in the hours following a conversation.

With information at our figure tips at all time, we are training our brain to use memory less and less. That 25 per cent could be a much smaller number if the skill of active listening is not developed.

The payoffs of active listening are lengthy and include:

  • Strengthen relationships
  • Builds loyalty (for clients as well as staff)
  • Enhances your ability to retain information
  • Earns trust and respect
  • Helps avoid misunderstandings

So, what is active listening and how do you learn it?

Active listening is concentrating on what someone has said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker. It is using all your senses to absorb the information from the speaker.

This skill is only learned through patience and practice; And, there is no better place to practise than Toastmasters.

Using a variety of assigned roles, Toastmasters has perfected the art of learning how to actively listen. Most people know Toastmasters as a public speaking practice group (as was noted at the beginning as my original understanding).

But it is so much more. Famous Toastmaster members include:

  • Tim Allen (actor, comedian)
  • William Bennett (for whom we fondly named our bridge)
  • Peter Coors (founder for Coors Brewing co.)
  • Carl Dixon (singer for The Guess Who)
  • Leonard Nimoy (actor)

To name only a few.

How do you get involved? Join Toastmasters. The first step is the hardest, but always the most rewarding. Join and you will quickly realize why so many prominent people of influence rely on the Toastmasters organization to build on their skills.

Make visiting a club your February goal — visit our club, visit multiple clubs; find the one that works for your schedule.

Our club details:

Come develop your skills as a leader, a business owner, a person on a journey of self-improvement. The skills you will learn are priceless.

Toastmasters is worth waking up for.

Christy Webb, a senior financial adviser with Valley First, is treasurer of Kelowna AM Toastmasters. She can be reached at [email protected]

More The Art of Speaking articles

About the Author

The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment that offers every member the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are eight Toastmasters clubs in the Central Okanagan.

For more information and/or to find a club near you, check http://www.toastmasters.org.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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