The motto of Toastmasters is “Where Leaders are Made” and our club helps us be exactly that – to conquer our own fears and improve ourselves. The main idea behind Toastmasters is that practicing a certain skill over and over will lead to it becoming something natural and instinctive. These skills include: talking in front of an audience, proper usage of vocabulary and command of language, giving constructive feedback. It all boils down to practice, practice, practice!
The SAP Labs Bulgaria Toastmasters club was founded in July 2015 with the help of enthusiastic colleagues and the support of the Lab management. Regular participants strive to improve in these disciplines:
- Presentation Skills
- Language Proficiency
- Leadership Skills
- Giving/Receiving feedback
In Toastmasters, we have two main paths for development – Communication skills and Leadership skills. There is a participant manual for each of those and each manual includes 10 projects that gradually guide you on your path to improving your skillset. The Toastmasters methodology has been developing for over 90 years and it has proven as an effective way to boost your performance and confidence.
Roles & Meetings
Each meeting has an agenda and a list of roles that every participant can take. Some of the roles develop your leadership skills. These help you, for example, plan, organize and moderate a meeting, give constructive feedback, learn how to listen carefully, develop your time-management skills. More advanced skills include motivating people, mentoring and a lot more.
The communication skills are centred on speaking in front of an audience. You can learn how to research your speech topic, how to clearly state your goal, how to express yourself with proper body language and how to regulate the pitch of your voice. With time and practice you can see great improvements – you will use fewer parasitic words, you will make less unnecessary pauses and be confident when communicating with the public.
The most entertaining part of each meeting are the Table Topics. Here, each participant is challenged to improvise on spot on a topic he draws at random. You may need to share your thoughts on a famous quote, answer strange job interview questions, interpret picture, or even do a Presentation Karaoke. Of course all brave volunteers get something sweet for their courage. The possibilities are endless. Fun times are guaranteed!
An important aspect of the meeting is the feedback. Each speaker has an evaluator, who listens to the speech and then gives feedback based on the current project of the speaker. Additionally all meeting participants can also write short comments on ballots and so each speaker gets additional insights on their performance from the audience. It’s very inspiring to see how the feedback changes with each successfully completed project.
This year we held our first internal speech contest, which was at the same time a qualifier for the national speech competition. Our colleague Lyubomir Lalev ended up on second place of the national competition.
The Toastmasters format is a success for us because it offers an entertaining and fun way to improve important professional skills. The format is open to all colleagues – the club members prepare speeches based on the Manuals, but every guest at the meeting can volunteer and take the challenge of the Table Topics. This makes every meeting a unique experience. After all, you never know what you’re going to find!