I joined Toastmaster’s International at the bidding of my new employer, who was the head of the marketing department at a medium-sized company.  He told me that he liked the way that the club served as an aid in training the people in his department to perform better in public speaking scenarios.  I respected his request for two reasons.  First, he noted how the members of his department, in order to be effective employees, should be proficient at the speaking skills involved in explaining, advertising and promoting the company’s products and processes.  Second, he was an active and enthusiastic member of the club himself.  But more than just training for a particular job, I viewed the opportunity as a means for aquiring an important life skill:  communication.
    Much as with other skills, breaking the speech-creating process down into its essential components is a good strategy for improving.  The Toastmaster’s starting manual, the “Competent Communicator”, presents a series of ten educational projects.  Each of these projects expounds upon different aspects of the structure of good speaking.  Though the members choose their own subject matter, the projects in the manual allow the members to emphasize specific skills.  This offers an experience of actively exercising the various components of good speaking.
    After delivering an assigned speech, the speaker has the chance to have one of his peers evaluate his speaking performance in terms of the objectives of the particular speech project.  This feedback is very useful in encouraging good speaking habits and pointing out the mannerisms that detracted from the message of his speech.  Because of the friendly environment that accompanies the Toastmaster meetings, the members enjoy a safe place to strike out into new territory on their journey towards improved communication.
      I am at a time in my life when I am exploring the whole idea of communicating, be it in Art, Theatre, Psychology, or Acting.  The learning process that I am undergoing in Toastmasters is playing an important role in all of these areas, because the concepts of self-confidence and self-expression receive frequent exercise during the course of club membership.