Time to polish up your public-speaking skills | Contributor

By Patti Rowlson
Courtesy to The Bellingham Business Journal

“Hey, can you give a 45-minute presentation to our group next week?”

That simple question can make otherwise poised and polished business professionals shake in their shoes.

I can relate, because I have been one of those shoe-shakers.

Does the thought speaking in front of a group of 50 people make you cringe? How do you feel about discussing your company’s products and services with a dozen people sitting around a conference table?

How about those timed one-minute elevator speeches given at networking events?

Do public presentations of any size make your palms sweat and your heart race?

If so, it may be time to invest time and energy into polishing up your public speaking skills.

Being able to confidently talk with others about your company, your products or services, and your industry is an important marketing tool. Solid public speaking and presentation skills can help increase sales and help build your personal brand.

We’ve all seen that person—you know, the one who can stand up in front of a group and effortlessly entertain and enlighten a crowd. They infuse their speeches with just the right amount of humor. They get their point across clearly, and they inspire us to take action.

Many of us are in awe of these people. We are humbled and maybe even intimidated by public-speaking dynamos.

How do they do it?

In most cases, becoming a confident speaker starts with practice, education and coaching.

One method people use to polish their speaking skills is Toastmasters International, because it’s an affordable and proven system.

Toastmasters is an international communication and leadership development organization made up of more than 290,000 members from 14,350 clubs in 122 countries.

Six of those clubs are located right here in Whatcom County.

Their mission is “to provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.”

The organization uses a unique learn-by-doing method. Members practice their speaking and leadership skills in a no-pressure atmosphere where they are allowed to work through program curriculum at their own pace.

A typical Toastmasters meeting has a set agenda that includes opening remarks and club news, time for member speeches, a “Table Topics” session (1-2 minute impromptu speeches by various members), evaluations, and closing remarks.

Some folks assume Toastmasters is expensive, but that’s an incorrect assumption.

Membership dues are very affordable (approximately $40 every 6 months). This includes two project workbooks (one for leadership development and one for communication training) and several meetings per month.

This year I set a personal goal of working on public speaking and presentation skills,and the Barkley Toastmasters group is helping me work toward that goal.

I have three speeches under my belt and have been working on leadership activities within the group. I am definitely a work-in-progress, but the journey has been enjoyable so far.

If you are interested in polishing up your public speaking and presentation skills as a marketing tool for your business, consider Toastmasters.

You’ll find meeting locations in Lynden, Ferndale, Birch Bay and Bellingham. Guests are always welcome.

Patti Rowlson is a marketing consultant and social media manager at PR Consulting, Inc. She helps Whatcom County small businesses identify, implement and consistently maintain marketing-related programs. Learn more about small-business marketing by connecting with PR Consulting on social media sites or by visiting www.pattirowlson.com.

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