Becoming a Competent Communicator

Early 2014, I joined The Regional Municipality of York as the Region’s first Corporate Social Media Specialist – a dedicated resource to support the Region’s social media and online communications efforts. Since the role was brand new, I was able to shape the position, and I quickly began a flurry of training sessions and presentations to raise awareness about and familiarity with social media in the organization. These activities included a considerable amount of public speaking – something that was new and slightly terrifying for me. I’m a definite introvert and get my energy from being alone. At the same time, however, I was grateful for the challenge to step outside of my box and work on skills that I was previously unable to practice.

A few months after joining the Region, I was invited to attend a meeting for TROY Toastmasters – York Region’s corporate Toastmasters club. I’d heard of Toastmasters previously, mainly through my father, who has worked in a number of positions that has required him to assume roles in spotlights. He mentioned the merit of Toastmasters to me in the past but, short of being invited and escorted to a meeting, I never thought of actually seeking out a club.

I never thought I’d enjoy the Toastmasters experience so much. As a corporate club, TROY Toastmasters is somewhat smaller than public clubs. As a result, there are more opportunities to speak and participate. I enjoyed the opportunity to willingly step outside of my comfort zone with a supportive group of people and practice the various skills needed for effective public speaking. Furthermore, the certification process of Toastmasters appealed to my very process-oriented self. I enjoyed the clear guidelines, supportive reading material and step-by-step guide on how to go from step A – delivering an initial Ice Breaker speech – to the final step of being deemed a “Competent Communicator” (CC). Each step in the process also included a peer evaluation to provide constructive criticism.

I began my Competent Communicator journey in the fall of 2014 and secured Competent Communicator status by July 2015. My first few speeches focused entirely on work – offering mini training sessions on social media and conversation “netiquette.” As I progressed, however, I began offering speeches on more personal topics, which I found much harder to do. Speeches that delved into the benefits of writing and why I personally write and speeches that shared information about me and my personal life. The process forced me to learn and grow at every step.

Once securing your CC, Toastmasters encourages you to explore more refined levels of communication and leadership by using advanced manuals. They send you two advanced manuals for free as part of a reward for obtaining your CC. I chose Public Relations and Storytelling. The first for work, the second for writing (a whole other kind of work). I’ve found over the years that I’ve learned a few key things about my personality: I love a challenge. I like the reward of certification or course completion – I’d be a lifetime student if I could afford it! And I’m happiest when work meets my passion – my Toastmasters experience of being able to hone my professional skills while exploring those related to writing being a prime example. I’m looking forward to continuing my Toastmasters experience. I’d love to hear from you: Have you ever considered a Toastmasters club? What key things inspire you?

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