Thursday, May 23, 2013

Upgrade Your Life - Join Toastmasters

Dale Carnegie's extensive research proved, ‘One’s financial success depends on two types of skills – technical skills & people skills. The share of technical skills is just 15 percent and the rest 85 percent is contributed by human skills.’ He further said, ‘two most important people skills are - communication & leadership. These are the mother skills of all other.’ Still, how many days or hours do we spend on developing these two skills in our jobs or Businesses?

We all will vouch, from beginning to end Steve Jobs was not the best technology guy at No#1 Fortune 500 company – Apple Computers.

Steve Wozniak was the engineering brain behind Apple’s success in initial years and then there were 100s of other people who were smarter than Steve Jobs in technology & engineering.

It was Steve Jobs’ leadership & communication skills (ability to see a vision & being able to communicate the same) which made all the difference. Just think of any great personality s/he was a great leader & communicator for sure. Let me remind you of blind, deaf & dumb Helen Keller who said, ‘the most pathetic person in the world is the one who has sight but no vision’. What a powerful communication!! Just imagine people with eyes, ears and voice get a feedback from their manager that they are not good at communication. Even worse, they keep on hearing this year after year, every appraisal cycle.

It is not only the performance rating at work which suffers but lack of good communication skills also impacts our personal lives adversely. I did a secondary research and found that miscommunication or poor communication or communication gap is the biggest contributor to getting fired from jobs, getting poor ratings and poor increments which lead to dissatisfaction, frustration and many other negative emotions. Deserving people do not get their right of getting promoted and end up being underemployed.

Weakness in communication skills also leads to disasters in personal life. It may lead to fights between spouses, friends and family.  At times it may even lead to divorce between a sweet, lovely, made in heaven couples. And we say, ‘najar lag gayi inke pyaar ko’ (their love has attracted some bad omen) or the other very famous excuse which is popularized by the movie Raaz-3, ‘someone has applied black magic on their relationship’.
 ‘Na toh kisi ki nazar lagti hai aur na hi ye koi kaala jaadu hai’ (neither it attracts bad omen nor anyone applies a black magic).
Most of the times, it is - lack of proper communication.
The good news here is, with preparation and practice; we can perform exceptionally well in these two areas – communication & leadership.

On behalf of my employer organization I underwent one classroom training on ‘Communications Skills for Operational Excellence’. At the end of the training, I went to the trainer and said; ‘Mam, you have been an excellent trainer throughout the day. However irrespective of the greatness of the trainer or trainee one day’s training is not enough to improve communications skills. Tell me what shall I do to further enhance and improve in this area on consistent basis?’
Her answer was, ‘Mukesh, if you are really interested in improving your communication – join Toastmasters’. That was the first day I heard about Toastmasters. She was absolutely right.
I am a proud alumnus of an Indian Institute of Management.  Some of the professors there; were really world class. Especially the ones who taught us communication were truly Sachin Tendulkars of their field. But the fact is; no amount of teaching can help us when it comes to communication & leadership. These skills are like bicycling or swimming which we learn only by doing.  
George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘If you teach a man anything, he will never learn. Learning is an active process. We learn by doing.’

Toastmasters is an incredible organization (spread across 15000 clubs in 116 countries) and provides superb platform where you learn ‘Communication & Leadership’ by practicing in a healthy, happy and motivating environment. Here we truly, learn by doing.
Toastmasters International helps people learn the arts of speaking, listening, and thinking – vital skills that promote self-actualization, enhance leadership potential, foster human understanding, and contribute to the betterment of mankind.
These meetings happen in the form of clubs where a group of people (Toastmasters) get together and conduct the meetings in a predefined protocol.
Some clubs meet on a weekly basis, some meet biweekly and a few others meet once a month. The meetings usually go on for 90 minutes.
A Toastmasters club, essentially consists of a very supportive and encouraging group of people who get together to help one another improve in the areas of public speaking and leadership. 
Generally, the meetings have following three sections:
  1. There is a host for each meeting who is called the Toastmaster of the week. The host runs the show for the entire duration of the meeting.
  2. As the meetings begin, usually Toastmasters clubs have three speakers scheduled to deliver a 5 to 7 minutes of prepared speech. As they complete the speech, they receive constructive feedback from the members on their performance at the end of the meeting.
  3. After the prepared speech section, impromptu speaking section begins. Usually this section is called, “Table Topics” and the person who conducts this by giving topics to members is known as Topic Master. In this section, previously not known topics are given to volunteers to speak. The talk is of 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. At the end of the Table Topics section, there comes the evaluation section where all the other role holders of the meeting such as the timer, the grammarian, the ah-counter and the designated evaluators provide their feedback.
  5. In the end, there is a networking opportunity and then everyone leaves excited to meet next time.
Toastmasters Education Programs
Attending a Toastmasters club meeting doesn't cost anything. You can attend a club meeting as a guest as long as you desire. Toastmasters clubs love to have guests and have them participate in their meetings.
However, the Toastmasters International does provide a facility where anybody can choose to become a member of the club. Members can participate in the Toastmasters International’s educational programs and get certified as below.
The certification programs are usually on two tracks:
  1. Leadership Track where you get certified based on how many different roles you play during the meetings over a period of time.
  2. Communication track where you are certified based on how many speeches you delivered as per the curriculum of Toastmasters International.

DTM stands for Distinguished Toastmaster and is the highest award Toastmasters can confer. This means you have completed all the Communication and Leadership projects; you are truly distinguished in public speaking and leading groups positively.
My Toastmasters experience has helped me know the fundamentals of public speaking. It has helped me immensely in becoming effective in front of any audience. I am VP Education of my club and this role has taught me many things about leading a group.
As you begin your personal development journey, you can benefit from Toastmasters in following areas of your life: 
   1. Reduce fear of public speaking.  
   2. Increase self-confidence.  
   3. Make some new friends. 
   4. Network with other leaders from various industries.  
   5. Become better speaker / trainer / teacher / manager. 
   6. Learn the power of discipline and intentional listening 
   7. Improve your existing leadership skills and learn a few new skills.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, manager, a marketer, a life coach, sales coach, seminar leader – Toastmasters is a great platform to help you hone your skills. Other than this, if you want to become a better husband, wife, mother, father, friend – Toastmasters is the place.
How to find a Toastmasters Club & Join?
You may have a club in your area. You just need to look for it from the Toastmasters International’s website (, and pay them a visit. They will love to have you and you will have a lot of fun.
You don’t have to join any club to merely attend the meetings. So, my sincere suggestion is you visit a few club meetings, get to know the members, ask questions until you feel comfortable before you make a decision to join.


  1. I don't have any words to describe about this article. Really it is a worth to read it.

  2. Dear Sir,
    I am a doctoral student at IIM Lucknow. Do you have a list of toastmasters clubs in India. I am looking for a club in Lucknow. A primary search on internet indicates that there are no active clubs in Lucknow. Could you please help?

    Samrat Gupta

  3. Hey,
    Me too looking for one of toastmasters club in Lucknow. Can anyone help.

  4. Hi, I also want to join it in Lucknow to improve my speaking skills and to learn in a healthy environment. Thanks and redards Anupriya Sharma