I want to start by saying that I am a big proponent of Toastmasters. In fact, my professional speaking career would not even exist without it. However, recently I have become aware of the stark differences between the Toastmasters experience and the real world. By real world I mean any environment in which you are required to do public speaking or give presentations in your day-to-day life. So this could be a sales presentation, a presentation to angel investors, a keynote speech at an industry conference or training a group of employees in your office. Here are six differences you will encounter that might surprise you:
- In Toastmasters you are coddled. It is such a supportive environment, that you often don’t hear the one thing you need to hear to learn and improve – the TRUTH. In the real world people will be only too ready to share their honest opinions with you – either directly or indirectly (for example you might lose a sale). In Toastmasters even the worst presenters get a cushion of ‘warm gooey’ feedback. As an Executive Speech Coach in the real world, I find this incredibly frustrating because it hinders progress. If you attend one of my Public Speaking Workshops you will hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!
- In the real world no one is there to time you. In every Toastmasters meeting almost ever speech and role is timed. In the real world you keep your own time and time is money.
- In the real world no one will count your filler words and every time you use one you will lose a little bit of credibility with your audience. In a Toastmasters club meeting someone will point out your filler words and if your language or grammar is lacking they will usually excuse it. In the real world the quality of your language matters as much as your public speaking prowess.
- In Toastmasters you can often speak about any topic you wish – especially when it comes to your manual speeches. In the real world you are often told what you will be talking about and it may not even be something you are passionate about – it could just be part of your job.
- In a Toastmasters meeting you can show up in sweats, unshaven, looking like you just rolled out of bed and it’s no big deal. In the real world the bank and your potential investors aren’t going to have much confidence in you if you show up looking like that to ask them for money are they? In the real world your appearance matters.
- In a Toastmasters club people want to support you and want you to succeed. In the real world politics abounds and many people have their own hidden agendas. Perhaps you are competing with other sales team members for top sales person rank so you can earn a coveted bonus or maybe you are running against other people in your political party to represent a riding – either way it’s a competition and people will be looking out for themselves.
I know I will upset some people by writing this blog post and others will miss the point completely, but it must be said. You see I often recommend Toastmasters to people who attend my Public Speaking Workshops and to my Executive Speech Coaching clients as a great way to practice their public speaking skills, but I know it isn’t right for everyone. Another reason I’m writing this is for all the Toastmasters out there who want to make the jump from Toastmaster to Professional Speaker – be aware of the differences and you are more likely to succeed.