by John Ingrisano
Knowledge and skill-building are crucial to continued business success. We constantly watch our markets, look for ways to cut expenses, boost profits, better manage our inventory and personnel. Plus, we update our websites, adjust our marketing materials, and look for new ways to do business.
What about our verbal skills? When was the last time you considered that your ability to express yourself to a prospect, a customer, a lender or a supplier can make a sale, get you a lower interest rate or a better deal on inventory? It’s true.
So, why not improve your verbal communication skills? It’s money in the bank. That’s right. Imagine building and finessing your ability to connect with your customers and business associates: improving and refining your body language, your vocal tone and pitch, even your presentation organization and structure. Sounds great, but how?
Well, here is where I am going to make a blatant pitch for a great organization. It’s nonprofit and, no, I do not get a commission for every new member I round up. This commercial is a labor of love.
It’s called Toastmasters International. Started in 1924, Toastmasters currently has more than 260,000 members around the world. Each Toastmasters meeting is a learn-by-doing workshop in which participants have the opportunity to hone their speaking and leadership skills in a friendly (aka: safe) atmosphere.
I’ve been a member of my local club (the Green Bay Yackers) for about two years. During that time, even though I walked in thinking I was hot stuff, I have since learned more about how to communicate effectively than I ever imagined. Based on the people I’ve met and what I’ve learned, I’ve become a big believer in this organization, which has challenged me to keep growing and improving my verbal skills.
One of the best aspects of each meeting is that presentations are constructively evaluated. I personally love the instant feedback that, on one hand, boosts my self-assurance and, on the other, points out areas in need of improvement. (For me, that would be eliminating the “ahs” and “ums” and slowing down my pace.)
Just as important, for those of us with a competitive spirit, there are district, regional, state and international competitions. You can take Toastmasters as far as you desire.
Finally, for me, even though I’m an old dog and no longer susceptible to flattery, glitter and gee-gaws, I must confess that I absolutely love displaying the five first-place trophies I have on my shelf. (Okay, I am still susceptible. Sue me!)
Where can you find a Toastmasters group near you? Look in the phone book or go to www.toastmasters.org. Oh, and BTW, you are encouraged to visit meetings to check out what goes on … no pressure or obligation to join. Do it!
The bottom line: As business people, our manner, style and verbal skills are just as important as our product and business knowledge. Hone and build those skills and I guarantee (well, almost guarantee) that your customer base, your relationship-building skills, and your sales figures will climb steadily.
So, work hard. Make money. Have fun. And take your verbal skills to the next level! – JRI
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