As a Customer Service Trainer, I am acutely aware of the importance of effective communication skills.
When I started out in business, I knew that it was vital for me to deliver my customer service training in an engaging manner. I had to lead by example and demonstrate how words, tone and body language can transform the customer experience.
In addition, I have a long-standing goal to become a motivational speaker. The competition is fierce, so you need to be at the top of your game in order to be invited to speak at conferences and events.
In the spirit of continuous improvement, I joined Aylesbury Toastmasters. This supportive group helps people of all ages and backgrounds to gain confidence in speaking, both professionally and in social situations.
On joining Toastmasters, I began working through the Competent Communicator programme (now an online resource known as Pathways). I also listened to other members talking on a wide variety of subjects and took note of the feedback they received.
When it was my turn to put the theory into practice, the apprehension was nerve-wracking, however, it turned out to be a positive learning experience; one that I’ve been keen to repeat.
Each speech is timed and evaluated. Beyond the words, you receive feedback on your presence and how effectively you engaged with the audience. The comments you receive are intended to empower. The advice is constructive and achievable, so with each speech, you grow in confidence.
If you take the comments on board, you can make strides to improve how you come across. I’ve certainly become more aware of allowing a moment of silence to gather my thoughts, rather than using ‘um’ and other fillers!
Toastmasters International Contest
Each year, Toastmasters runs a global competition. I decided to put everything I’ve learnt into play and enter. The first round is at club level. The advice is to talk about something you are knowledgeable about, so I based my talk ‘Who are you calling a bag?’ on a customer service experience.
As with any training event, my aim is not only to share information but to also motivate the audience into action. Fortunately, all went to plan and I also motivated the judges to award me the winner!
The next step is to represent the Aylesbury Toastmasters in the area event, which takes place on 18th March. I’m all set and raring to go. There are several more stages of competition before the International Final, but one talented individual will be representing the UK in Denver, Colorado this summer; what an opportunity!
If you would like to perfect your communication skills, I’d highly recommend Aylesbury Toastmasters. This local group is the longest running in England and Wales, with meetings held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. If you aren’t local to Aylesbury, there are groups throughout the country.
Gaining confidence in communication can help you in all aspects of life including job interviews, business networking, pitching for funding or fulfilling your ambition to be a motivational speaker!