Communication is key

Toastmasters can help get the point across

By Donna Steele

The Landing Place and The Bridge are forming with other non-profits in Greenfield to help those looking for work. Love in the Name of Christ of Greater Hancock County, as one of those partners, is providing workshops to “help adults learn to better find employment by practicing resume writing and interview skills,” according to a recent Daily Reporter article.

There is another opportunity to develop professional, communication and leadership skills that is not widely known but it is available to all adults 18 and older: Greenfield Toastmasters.

“Whatever your grade or position, if you know how and when to speak, and when to remain silent, your chances of success are proportionately increased.” This is from Ralph Smedley, from Bloomington, who began Toastmasters in 1905. It is now an international organization.

Beyond employment readiness, there are many reasons to become a Toastmaster. Just ask Elanco U.S.’s human resources department. They have been sending employees to the Greenfield club for years. And Keihin North America has had an in-house Toastmasters club for all level of employees.

Full disclosure: I’m a member of Greenfield Toastmasters. I joined in 2015 to prepare for speaking engagements during my campaign for city council. Other members have joined to overcome shyness or to advance in their careers. Some use Toastmasters as a tool to sharpen their already accomplished ability to present. Others want to be more effective leaders.

Toastmasters grow as communicators and leaders at their own pace. The communication track includes speeches emphasizing a different aspect of what makes a speaker good, for instance, word choice, expression, vocal variety, body language. These attributes are applicable in one-on-one encounters as much as they are when delivering a presentation.

The leadership track allows members to assume roles such as being a topics master, leading a meeting or serving as an executive committee member. The leadership and communicator tracks occur in tandem.

Greenfield Toastmasters helps improve organized thinking. Just like telling a story, a speech has a beginning, a middle and an end. Members are encouraged to deliver this 1-2-3 even during impromptu speaking, which is available to members at almost every meeting.

There is another side to this coin, however. Being a good listener is just as important as being a good speaker. The atmosphere at a meeting is encouraging and constructive, with an emphasis on active listening and kind suggestions for improvement.

Listening is a practice. Concentrating on someone else, paying attention, communicating with eye-contact and expression, tacitly giving your approval and encouragement: these are skills social media doesn’t require.

Technology natives, as those born into the world of computers and social media are called, could use some practice in listening. Doing so goes beyond politeness; it is a requirement for success. The ability to hold eye contact tells a lot about a person, and it has been noted technology natives struggle with this. In this “communication” age, relentless notifications, tweets, emails, and updates have usurped that part of communicating that involves immersive attention and listening.

Communication — not virtually — but real communication, also includes intuition and empathy and is what Toastmasters teaches.

Non-profit board members would do well to become Greenfield Toastmaster members to learn to effectively communicate grant requests from government, corporate, and non-profit organizations.

Technology natives will be especially well-served by practicing effective communications.

I encourage everyone to join Greenfield Toastmasters at their open house 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. May 9 at the conference room of First Merchants Bank, 1810 N. State St. A regular meeting will be held, with light snacks, and you can see for yourself the practice of becoming a Toastmaster.

Regular Toastmaster meetings are 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday at First Merchants Bank.

Donna Steele, an Alabama native, moved to Hancock County in 2011. She lives in Greenfield. Send comments to