“The problem is that so few people have the ability to get up and present well and confidently here in Malta,” said the Chairman of a leading Maltese company sitting next to me at a press event recently. “And the ones who do speak fluently usually like the sound of their own voice and don’t think about those listening.” This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this comment.
It’s a skills gap several training entities in Malta have tried to fill in recent years by running soft skills and business communications courses. The word ‘business’ is mostly redundant; if you can communicate well, you should be able to communicate anything well. And most people in business need fluency in everyday language, not specialist jargon.
But while the Maltese are among the most chatty, friendly and garrulous of nations, it seems that many people here still don’t feel at ease in front of an audience, whether at a seminar or full-blown conference, unless they’re politicians (some of whom fall into the ‘like the sound of own voice’ category anyway).
Practice makes perfect
There’s a new way to gain those much-needed, desirable communications skills that doesn’t have the word ‘business’ attached to it although it will put you in touch with like-minded professional and business people, all of whom are on the same humbling mission – to improve their comms’ skills. It’s called Toastmasters and it’s just arrived in Malta, by way of some 106 countries worldwide; the Malta Club is the latest at No. 107.
What is Toastmasters?
The name suggests the club is about honing after-dinner speaking skills, which, let’s be frank, few of us will need. What Toastmasters is about however is supporting, encouraging, guiding, praising and giving people opportunities to speak in public, at its informal yet structured club meetings. It’s akin to a self-help book put into practice in a group setting.
How it works
Groups meet for around one to two hours either weekly or monthly and all have the same, pretty basic agenda of:
- Prepared speeches: giving people the chance to prepare, rehearse and the deliver speeches in front of fellow members;
- Speech evaluations: members give constructive, supportive feedback on each other’s performances.
- Impromptu speaking: a ‘just a minute’ approach which sees members speaking off the cuff for a couple of minutes on topics of general interest.
Steve Holmes, a former Watch Manager with the London Fire Brigade who moved to Gozo around two years ago, brought Toastmasters to Malta. He explains why it works so well in comparison to many commercial courses we can attend: “Toastmasters is a more relaxed way to get to grips with becoming a good speaker and presenter. Since we meet regularly, around once a month, we can see ourselves and our fellow members progress over time. We can take on board appraisal and implement and practice skills in a way that we just can’t do on an intense, one-off training course.”
Toastmasters is foremost a club, so it brings with it many networking opportunities. The local group already numbers around 20 members drawn from most professions and sectors (when the group grows larger, it will split into two local branches, or more). Steve is keen to stress that Toastmasters is for anyone over 18 who wants to improve their speaking skills – “It’s not a business club, it’s a practical club. But no doubt there are benefits from hobnobbing informally with people from all walks of life at Toastmasters”.
Further Info on Toastmasters:
Contact Club President, Steve Holmes on tel: 2099 2948; or mob; 7931 6769. Email: Steve Holmes at firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a small annual membership fee. For details, contact Steve.