The gift that keeps on giving

By Betty Hintch, American Speaker editor

It’s gift-giving time again, and I suspect many of you are wracking your brains to find meaningful presents for staff members and co-workers. The easy ones come to mind: gift cards, candy and food. However, gifts that are the most appreciated and remembered are usually ones that have a lasting value.

As I contemplate some of those enduring gifts that I’ve received, one that comes to mind was the recommendation that I join Toastmasters International. I am not sure that it was around the holiday season, but when my boss encouraged me to attend a few meetings, I knew I had been handed a gift that would keep on giving throughout my career.  

I suppose someone could take offense at the suggestion to join a self-improvement group. However, I was flattered that someone thought enough of my potential to recommend that I join with other professionals to hone a critical business skill. I was a few years out of college and looking for ways to boost my career.

Toastmasters gave me the opportunity to meet people from a cross-section of professions and industries. My group included an association executive, senior officials from a Fortune 500 company and a lawyer who went on to become a Chicago alderman. (He was trying to hone his speaking skills in preparation for public service.) Where else would I have met such a diverse group of professionals just a few years out of college?

I also realized that developing my speaking skills would boost my confidence, improve my ability to focus my thoughts and give me an edge among other recent grads.

As the new editor of American Speaker, my research and writing constantly reminds me of the boundless benefits of good public speaking skills. They seep into all other communications. Whether you are talking to a customer one on one or stating your opinion during a conference call, you’ll demonstrate your competence if you can organize your thoughts and deliver ideas with confidence.

So, if your boss suggests that you look at the American Speaker website, don’t be offended. Take it as a vote of confidence that you are someone worthy of career development. If you are concerned that recommending American Speaker to a staff member or colleague might ruffle a few feathers, point out what you’ve learned by improving your public speaking. You’ll demonstrate your commitment to good presentation skills. In addition, you’ll build rapport by revealing that you also needed to improve your public speaking at one time.

Here’s what you’ll find on the site:

  • Reports, resources and “Focus On…,” which addresses a public speaking challenge. This month’s features the art of writing and delivering toasts.
  • Monthly advice for subscribers on calming your nerves, using PowerPoint effectively and shining during your most challenging public speaking experiences.  
  • Blogs critiquing famous speeches, public-speaking styles and our editors’ insights on how to improve your presentation skills. 
  • Searchable databases with quotes, humor and other interesting facts to liven up your speeches.

I’d be delighted to hear from you. Leave a comment or share a life-changing public-speaking experience.

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