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Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Confidence in Business

Really interesting piece in this week's New Scientist, reporting on research showing confidence is as important as IQ in exam success.

Having been in Toastmasters for some 8 years, I've witnessed the effect of the Toastmasters' programme in boosting people's confidence many times, and the changes it makes to their lives. Public speaking must be one of the toughest barometers of personal confidence. In fact, there's a well-known US survey conducted by a major newspaper that reported walking into a roomful of strangers and public speaking inspired more fear than death itself!

It's brilliant to see people coming in to their first Toastmasters' meeting stuttering and visibly shaking, um-ing and er-ing all over the place. Then 10 speeches later, plus a liberal dose of impromptu speaking practice and a lot of encouraging support and constructive feedback, they are transformed.
Boosting presentation skills and confidence feeds through to all aspects of business and helps with networking, client and staff relations and of course, pitching for new business or investment.

I've now got to the point that I can almost count on getting a new client every time I speak in public. It doesn't always happen immediately, but I'm often amazed by the length of time people remember my speeches. I did one nearly 2.5 years ago to a women's business network. I remember it well because I had a terrible cold at the time and thought I might lose my voice. A few months ago, I got a call out of the blue from someone who remembered that talk. She is a lovely lady with a really interesting business idea: online travel salvage (

They offer a market for you to transfer a cancelled holiday or flight to another buyer. It works because most holiday companies offer pitifully small refunds, but do allow transfers. The transfer option gives the seller a chance to get more money back, and the buyer gets a travel bargain, so it's a win:win for both sides. They're just building up the cancelled holidays and flights just now, so there's not a massive choice yet, but I think they're more than worth a try if you need to offload a cancellation. or are looking for a travel bargain.

We did a one-off ad hoc online press release and boosted their web traffic 250%. Best of all, that resulted in coverage in a well-known national magazine: in fact they are currently Prima's website of the month (June issue).

And all that interesting business and these results stemmed from just one talk 2.5 years ago - aided by the practice and feedback I get in public speaking at Toastmasters clubs in Edinburgh!

If you fancy a break, I see Travel Salvage have a holiday in Spain for 2 people (flights from Newcastle on 6th June & accommodation) currently going for just over £100....

And if you fancy coming along to one of the 12,000 Toastmasters clubs world-wide to improve your public speaking and leadership skills using proven Toastmasters educational materials, most clubs offer up to 3 free meetings for guests before they ask you to join. The two Edinburgh clubs (called Capital Communicators and Waverley Communicators) meet fortnightly. To give you an idea of costs, each Edinburgh club charges £42 for 6 months to cover meeting room costs and fees to Toastmasters International (TMI), plus a single joining fee of £20 to Toastmasters. Obviously local meeting room rates and expenses will vary, but price is not generally a barrier to joining Toastmasters.

Once you join, you can attend any open Toastmaster club meeting in the world as a guest, so even on a bargain break, you could find a Toastmasters club where you can meet locals and participate in the club meeting! I found one in Forres, in the Scottish Highlands. It's fair to say that Forres is not a major conurbation, but they are close to a major RAF base and the leading spiritual centre called Findhorn, which has attracted many eco businesses. My husband and I had a great evening and met loads of interesting people. And I got yet more public speaking practice.

Toastmasters is definitely recommended for confidence boosting and broadening your horizons.

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posted by Penny Haywood Calder at


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