Toastmasters (TM) International, a nonprofit educational organisation, has found its place in over 141 countries, developing great speakers and responsible leaders. Its unique local club-based system creates a safe space for both beginners and seasoned professionals to improve their communication skills and share their expertise.
Joining a TM club helps people who experience glossophobia or speech anxiety practice speaking in front of an audience and get comfortable with the activity. The clubs are open for anyone to join whether you’re a lawyer, office worker or a student with dental braces.
Last 2010, the TM Board of Directors called for a modernisation of their education program to keep up with the current trends. While it trained good speakers, the traditional program hasn’t been much updated since the 1970s. Building on this established foundation, TM International launched its Pathways, a learning experience best suited to the modern and globalised world. Pathways is like a course in college where you choose which learning objectives and subjects are relevant to your goals.
The full Pathways experience has finally been rolled out last year, complete with an online gateway. Members can work on their speech projects, track progress, connect with other members and view their certificates in one place. The site also offers additional resources, including tutorials, videos, quizzes and interactive activities. While the new program is impressive, it has left both beginners and veterans confused and torn on what pathway to choose from the 11 currently available.
To help you decide, you can ask yourself what other skills you want to develop apart from becoming a good speaker. Are you looking to improve your leadership and project management? How about becoming a better storyteller and coach? The 11 pathways can be organised in the following four categories:
Leaders need to be great speakers to support their organisations and people better. The three leadership tracks explore what it means to be a great leader and develop the necessary competencies to be able to lead well.
The first track, Dynamic Leadership, focuses on understanding leadership and communication styles, as well as how to defuse and direct conflict. In contrast, the second track, Leadership Development, highlights learnings on managing time and developing plans and strategies. Lastly, the Motivational Strategies track trains a person on the best practices for building connections with stakeholders and motivating a team to accomplish goals.
Those interested in zeroing in on the tricks of the public speaking trade can choose one of the three storytelling tracks. The first is Presentation Mastery, where you learn how to manage your audience — their response, energies and connection. Speech writing and delivery are emphasised in this track. Second, the Engaging Humor track is ideal for people who would like to add humour and engagement in their speeches, both impromptu and prepared. Visionary Communication, on the other hand, focuses on effectively sharing information and creating innovative solutions.
For people handling a lot of projects, they can take advantage of the three project management tracks. The Innovative Planning tracks builds an understanding of the steps needed to manage a project and connect with stakeholders to make it happen. The Strategic Relationships track is a bit similar to Innovative Planning, but it delves deeper into networking with professional connections and knowing the importance of diversity. Last, the Team Collaboration track includes teaching skills on active listening, motivating others and team collaboration.
The last two tracks are under the coaching category. Like its namesake, the Effective Coaching track explores the competencies of being an effective and positive coach to others, emphasising on interpersonal communication. The Persuasive Influence track is more suitable for people who need guidance in the proper techniques of negotiation, which is helpful when your mentees need more coaxing.
Being a part of a TM club will be the best decision you’ll make not only in improving your public speaking skills but also on developing yourself into a leader, storyteller, project manager or coach.