Warsaw is known to be a dandy town, a place where it’s possible to find activities for every night of the week. But for something a little more alternative, for instance, something that involves having fun as well as a tiny bit of scholastic, personal development, then there is an option that goes beyond visiting the pub: something that simultaneously combines entertainment and training. That’s the local Toastmasters club, aimed at people who want to improve their public speaking skills.
Toastmasters Polska, a chapter of the non-profit Toastmasters International, was established 20 years ago, after some US Embassy diplomats made the decision to launch a club here in Warsaw. While the global success story of Toastmasters can be found online, the basic aim of each individual club is to help people be both comfortable and better skilled when talking in public. There are no teachers, and everyone learns from the others in the group; first timers will soon realize that meetings are very much geared towards practice and positive feedback, with lots of impromptu speaking games to make the whole experience fun and simple. Most don’t realize that it may require just a few exercises, some technical tricks and little boost of self-confidence to go from a mediocre speaker (not to use the word ‘lousy’) to a good performer. Toastmasters worldwide has proven to be an excellent place to practice and prepare for just that, and we all know how important it is to get ready for speaking in the real world: be it a business presentation, an interview or preparing a wedding speech – whatever the call is.
The meetings are structured but within reason. Speeches are prepared and usually short (up to 7 minutes) and while the subjects aren’t limited in scope, members have a program with guidelines so each speech focuses on different aspects; organization of the speech, body language, use of words, vocal variety, working with visual aids, etc. etc. There’s also a tradition of ‘speech competitions’ at Toastmasters, with one of the categories being ‘most persuasive speech’. Hopefully, this fulfills the criteria – see you at the next meeting? – Etan Sanders