I have been a member of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce Toastmasters group for four months now. I joined Toastmasters because I wanted to gain confidence speaking in front of a large group. One of my 2009 goals was to speak on an Insurance related topic to an audience as a SME (subject matter expert). I'm not shy, and I'm not scared, but I also am not a refined speaker. I want to step in front of a crowd with poise, and confidence and deliver a speech that radiates excellence. I know the insurance part cold, and I am good at putting the right words together, but I really wanted to improve my delivery.
Toastmasters has been the most amazing avenue for developing the skills needed to be the type of insurance related public speaker I want to be. Through functionary roles, such as inspirator, evaluator, toastmaster, and table topics coordinator you learn to speak clearly and succinctly for short periods of time, maybe 2-4 minutes. But as you become comfortable you begin doing speeches ranging in length from 4-12 minutes. The best part is you get 30 individual pieces of written feedback and one oral evaluation in front of the entire group. In a supportive way this group really pushes you to grow as a speaker.
No matter what business you are in, if you want to become a better public speaker I firmly suggest joining your local chapter of Toastmasters. If you give the group 100%, in 6 months time you will be very happy you joined.