People often say that money doesn’t grow on trees. What’s less often said is that you can create money with your mouth. Strong communication skills are closely tied to personal success and earning potential. If you’re someone who can speak clearly, succinctly, and memorably, then you stand apart from your peers who do not. People will invest you with greater trust and responsibility and money because they can understand you, and relate to you, and no one else.
Fortunately, communicating well is a learned skill and an organization exists that is devoted to cultivating it: Toastmasters International. Founded nearly a century ago by Ralph C. Smedly, the organization supports nearly 350,000 members in over 140 countries through 17,000 local clubs. At every meeting members practice delivering prepared and extemporaneous speeches; giving constructive criticism; and performing leadership functions. I can personally say after four years of membership in the organization, that Toastmasters has helped me enormously to become a far more effective speaker and overcome a stuttering problem on top of that.
With that said, lets look at a some ways that Toastmasters can both improve your communication skills and make more money.
1. Develop a better public persona
As stated before, people who can speak fluently, clearly and vividly will come across better than those who do not. They will appear smarter and more confident – the kind of person that people want to know and become friends with. After all, if you can speak well about yourself and things that you are working on, you can probably speak well about other people and the things that they are working on. Everyone wants that kind of asset on their team and they will pay for it.
Conversely, if you are unable to speak well, you generally come across as nervous, scared, or an idiot. If people feel anything when dealing with you, it’s either (1) a sense of frustration over how hard it is to understand what you’re saying, or (2) a sense of pity and a desire to end a conversation quickly to spare you the pain of further embarrassment. As you might imagine, if people don’t walk to talk with you, they won’t work with you either, and if people don’t work with you, they aren’t going to pay to stick around.
2. Develop the ability to think on your feet
Another way that Toastmasters can help make you rich is by teaching you the invaluable skill of thinking on your feet – or bullshitting, to put it plainly! Clubs go through an exercise called “Table Topics” wherein the Table Topics Master will put forward an open-ended question and then choose a random person in the club to answer it with a 1-2 minute response. Some of these questions can be very interesting and provoke you to give a lengthy reply; others will be so random that you will struggle to think of anything. Everyone will struggle with a question like “What’s your view on the winter solstice?” Faced with situations like that, you’ll need to develop some skill to redirect the conversation to more favorable ground.
As you can imagine, this is a useful tool to have when it comes to the dreaded job interview. At some point, the interviewer will likely ask you questions about job functions that you have no experience with, or tough situations that you’ve yet to see at work, or computer programs that you’ve never used. By practicing in advance at Toastmasters, you’ll be able to reply effectively in these situations.
In the same vein, being able to think on your feet will help you with client management or sales-related work. You can build a personal connection with a wider assortment of people because you’ve been trained to notice linkages between various subjects that may interest the customer. You can manage any oddball questions that they may throw at you about the product or service, because you get them all the time at Toastmasters. You can also watch their behavior as you give your response and tell if you are losing their attention, with their eyes glazing over and wandering to other objects in the room. The ability to think on your feet is valuable in any situation.
3. Improved writing skills
While oratory is what Toastmasters revolves around, the first step to speaking well is writing well. Even the best speakers will occasionally refer to notes to guide themselves, whether these be bullet points, an outline, or a full draft of the speech. Once you practice this enough, it’ll soon become clear which points are weak or don’t make sense. You will see where the language is tortured or choppy. You will understand why, from the audience’s perspective, certain metaphors or examples are weak and unpersuasive. By the end of your first year or two of Toastmasters, you’ll have become a better writer as well as a better speaker.
Anyone who works in the office, or has to deal with email or reports, will immediately grasp why this skill is important. If you can write well, your ideas are transmitted effectively the first time. People don’t need to argue about every single detail constantly, or hold multiple meetings, because the meaning of your words was clear. If your writing is trustworthy, your reports and analyses may not only serve as reliable sources of information, but be the foundation on which decisions get made. Once it becomes known that you are expert who can make things happen, money will flow your way.
Conversely, if your writing skills are poor, people need to ask questions to understand what you’re trying to say. They will dread an email from you because it is always more of a hassle to deal with than other emails. They may not trust you with bigger tasks either because they know they’ll have to do additional work afterwards to polish up your product. Simply put, bad writing is associated with bad thinking, and no one will rely or promote someone who they can’t trust to think clearly.
4. Become of the face of your team, lead projects
All good things go hand in hand. If you become a better carpenter, you get more complex jobs. If you save more money, you have more capital to work with. Similarly, if you are comfortable presenting in front of people and dealing with ambiguous situations,people will trust you more. If you are an employee, your bosses will start asking you to be the face of the team during presentations, or to lead projects and meetings that involve many people. Naturally, if you are the face of the team, your name will be one that people remember should any promotions or job transfers open up.
Similarly, if you are self-employed then your ability to keep your cool in any situation, and to have good answers to any question, will inspire clients to trust you with their hard earned money. You won’t need to spend as much time chasing prospects, because every prospect will be more likely to work with you. Then, if you produce good work, they would be highly likely to recommend you to others and keep your revenue stream going.
This happens because your communication skills make you what is called, “the complete package.” People have technical skills, but not communication skills. Other people are socially comfortable, but have no idea how things actually work. If you are someone who is both technically savvy and communication savvy, then money will flow your way as you become a resource people trust and want to keep around.
5. Training for giving paid public speeches, or starting coaching/writing business
A more direct route of course is to simply start getting paid for giving your speeches. I won’t go into this as much since there are already excellent articles out there about how to do it,but the Toastmasters organization strongly encourages members to go down this route and offers many resources and guides to help them.
Of course, you may not be interested in becoming a public speaker. It requires a fair amount of travel, and after the recent behavior of top politicians and celebrities charging ridiculous amounts of money for boilerplate speeches as part of some quid pro quo deal, the industry’s reputation is not what it once was. You could still use your new communication skills to open up a business helping others who lack those same skills.
Let me give a few examples. First, many people are so terrified of public speaking that they can’t even enter a room hosting a Toastmaster club, knowing what’s in store for them. I’ve heard of stories where it took people weeks to literally take this first step. These people would much prefer to work one-on-one before daring to talk in front of anyone, and would pay you to tutor them. Second, others may need some help editing a resume, or producing content for their website. If you’ve been a Toastmaster for any length of time you’ll become quite good at brainstorming ideas, drafting outlines, and fixing weak writing. You may not get paid like a journalist, but it can be a steady side business. Moreover, if you publish enough content on one subject over time, you may discover that you have enough material to start writing a book on it (which explains why many journalists have a several books to their name). If that work becomes published and you become an expert in the public mind, you can start increasing your fees…or, again, even get into public speaking.
Another way to make money through Toastmasters simply by getting to know your fellow members. Many of them are working professionals who may be active in your industry, or a different industry that you want to break into.If you feel tempted to change careers or companies, many members would be more than willing to serve as a reference for you. Since the average Toastmaster is more ambitious than your usual professional (after all, look what they’re doing in their free time!), a reference from them may open doors for you that would remain closed otherwise.
Moreover, some members may also be entrepreneurs. If you show that you’re interested in making money and working in start-ups, they may reach out to you with opportunities that they are working on. In my own local club, I’ve been asked to fund a software startup by a colleague who was a software engineer, and could have probably gone in with two other guys on real estate or other business deals if I had the money or interest. These kind of opportunities do not appear everywhere; they appear in places where ambitious people congregate and Toastmasters is one of those places.
7. Learn from your elders
Finally, your fellow Toastmasters can be valuable sources of information even if they’re older or retired. They have likely worked in a variety of industries and can tell you what to expect if your thinking about going in that direction. They may have invested in real estate and can give you advice about what to do. Many have likely struggled through family emergencies and can tell you how to navigate the court system, what to include in wills, the differences between types of insurance and medical care, etc.
Long story short, if you want to get ahead in life, then you need to make not only the right moves, but also avoid the dumb mistakes that can trip you up. Your elders are more than happy to lend you a map and compass to navigate past these hazards and reach your goals. There is no limit to what you can learn in a group that encourages everyone to talk and share experiences!
In conclusion, if you want to be wealthy, Toastmasters can play an important role in the journey. Your ability to communicate – to speak well and write well – can earn you as much money as many technical skills do. When combined with those skills, your earning potential will soar.