Friday, September 18, 2009

Speaking Coach or Toastmasters?

"Should I hire a speaking coach, or join Toastmasters?"

I get this question all the time, and it's always the same answer: YES!

With 10 years of Toastmasters under my belt, I'm a strong believer in the program. Toastmasters gives you a weekly opportunity to speak in one way or another, a supportive audience always ready with feedback, and a wealth of educational information. And that's just on the speaking side. They also have a comprehensive leadership training program, and opportunities that could literally have you travelling the world before you're done.

That said, I'm also a speaking coach. While I advise all my clients to join Toastmasters, many of them have an event within a 1-4 weeks to prepare for, and Toastmasters simply doesn't have an intense enough program to for them to go from 0-60 in that short a time. Nor does Toastmasters have a program designed to teach preparing a long training session, a keynote speech, or sales presentation that is instantly available to new members. As a coach, I, and my peers, can provide that guidance immediately.

Not all speaking coaches are created equally, just as not all Toastmaster's Clubs are equally strong. Next week I'll discuss what to look for in a speaking coach (it won't be what you expect), and next Friday, I'll talk about finding the right Toastmaster club. Friday's will be designated Toastmaster-related posts, so tell your TM friends to be on the look out.

Most coaches provide one-on-one, project-oriented services as well as longer-term, goal oriented services. As I tell my clients, personal coaching is Toastmasters on Steroids. But I still expect them to go to the gym.

By all means, join Toastmasters. Then call me, or another coach in your area. You'll reach your goals faster than you felt possible.


  1. Hi Rich
    I think another critical difference between joining Toastmasters and getting a speaking coach, is that Toastmasters feedback tends to be on easy "on the surface" things like body language and vocal variety. Whereas, a speaking coach will focus on deeper analysis - how to craft the message and the presenter's internal attitude and how that transfers to their delivery.
    But Toastmasters is a great place to get regular practice and build your confidence.

  2. I agree with you on a speaking coach and Toastmasters. I consider myself a communications coach, but the same difference. I also teach classes and give workshops on communications/presentation skills. Like you, I always encourage my students and those I coach to join Toastmasters. I related the fact that as a chemist (a long time ago), I had to take classes and laboratory. I further explain that Toastmasters, IMHO, is the laboratory of communications. This is where you can practice and improve on what you learn in the classroom or being coached.

    Additionally, I've learned that everyone needs a coach, even professionally paid speakers. Tiger Woods has a coach. Why shouldn't we?

    I do differ slightly with Olivia in that there are advanced clubs and speakers bureaus in Toastmasters where we certainly do not get "on the surface" eveluations. I had to qualify to join our Professional Speakers club and my evaluation, from my long time friend, was brutal. She tore me up one side and down the other. But, that was the best evaluation I ever received.

    BTW, are you planning to attend next year's Int'l Convention? Since it's close to me, I will be attending. Would be great to meet.

  3. Toastmasters is to speaking coaching as general practitioner is to a neurosurgeon.

    Neither is "better" than the other, it depends on the individual's goals....and they are not mutually exclusive, either.

    Toastmasters allows me the opportunity to "push the envelope" into public speaking areas that I have little or no experience in (the monodrama and interpretive reading projects come to mind). Those sort of projects would not require a coach, but they do make me a better all-around speaker.

    I bring in the public speaking coach when I have specific areas I feel that I need a specialist to help me improve. In the past year, I've had Craig Valentine help me hone my storytelling ability, and both Patricia Fripp and Darren LaCroix have helped my humorous speaking ability. I was comfortable with my ability to tell stories and deliver humorous content...I just wanted to "hone the edge", with noticeable improvement.

  4. Our Toastmasters club in Tracy CA goes deeper than the surface, especially during contest time. We all rally around contestants who ask for coaching, do round robin evaluations and assist with speechwriting by email. If you want deeper opinions, sometimes you just have to ask :)



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