How To: Speechcraft Superheroes
Helping job-seekers become confident job candidates.
By Eleanor Guderian, ACG, CL
Judy was a shining example of the good things our program had done. A few months earlier, our club – the Stamano Toastmasters in Stanwood, Washington – had launched a Speechcraft program for the unemployed. Layoffs and unemployment were a dire problem in our area, and we wanted to help by teaching Toastmasters skills to people trying to secure jobs.
Judy stood before our group, giving her final Speechcraft presentation. She concluded with the following words:
“Right here in this room with a group called Toastmasters, this is real. You have invited a motley crew of the unemployed into your organization and taught us skills that may enable us to score that job. Each of you has given freely and generously of your time, talent and energy – at no cost to us.”
Then she added, “I believe that my fellow Speechcrafters would agree, and so I ask them to join me in giving you a round of applause. To the Toastmasters! A class act!”
And with that, the members of the Speechcraft program stood and clapped enthusiastically.
These Speechcraft participants had learned to give excellent speeches – with fewer “ahs” and “ums.” They had developed skill in answering hard questions – even those impossible queries asked by job interviewers. Through evaluations, they practiced giving newly-learned advice to each other. Some took on leadership roles in the meetings, surprising themselves with increased confidence and ability. They were prepared to walk with heads held high into new job opportunities.
Grappling with Job Losses
Stanwood is located in Snohomish County, in the U.S. state of Washington, where times have grown very tough in recent months. At one point, the county’s unemployment rate had grown to nearly 10 percent, the highest rate in more than 25 years. Layoffs at Boeing Commercial Airplanes (headquartered in Washington) led to the loss of jobs for contractors and aerospace suppliers. Construction projects died, manufacturing plants closed and biotech companies downsized their workforces. People who had been securely employed for most of their lives were starting over.
Thus, our club turned to Speechcraft – a short-term program designed to teach public speaking skills and provide growth opportunities for people without the requirement of Toastmasters membership. The Speechcraft program’s purpose is to demonstrate the organization’s vision and service while bringing new members into a club. We hoped it would be a win-win situation: Participants would learn skills to help them gain jobs, while our club would expand its membership and also inspire members with a new and different program.
The Daily Herald, Snohomish County’s largest paper, promoted the program in its JobSource section with a full-color picture and eye-catching article. Other papers printed news releases. A local company helped pay for the Speechcraft materials, and the public library offered its conference room.
Within hours of newspaper distribution, the first e-mail preregistrations arrived – and they just kept coming. To meet the growing demand, the Stamano Toastmasters offered to replace the regular meeting schedule with an additional class. Speechcraft manuals were ordered a second, then a third time. Many of those who registered were even committing to an hour commute! Our club members realized they would have high expectations, so we focused on getting ready.
Participants Make Progress
The Speechcraft manuals provided a basic structure and schedule of projects. During each session, the program leaders made the projects and Toastmasters activities applicable to specific job searches. As the participants progressed, they took on more meeting roles, such as providing and using a word of the day and leading Table Topics.
“It was an opportunity to challenge myself in unfamiliar territory, to build confidence and to work on my communication skills,” says Jane, one of the program participants.
Don, another participant, said he was stumbling on his “ums” when he joined. “I have improved the ‘um’ problem and gained confidence in speaking to my audience,” he notes.
Celebrating a Job Well Done
The nine-week Speechcraft series ended with an awards celebration and party. Eight participants received certificates for completing the manual speeches. Among them was a woman named Carol, who had found work as a substitute teacher – and credited the Speechcraft program with helping her perform well in the job.
“I feel more assured that I can give clear directions,” she said.
“Last week I was involved in two important meetings,” Carol added. “Before opening my mouth, I quickly thought of Speechcraft and having an outline in my head. Those Table Topics were good practice!”
Looking at the Results
Did the Stamano Toastmasters benefit by running this program? Club membership did not significantly increase, but several participants have promised to visit clubs closer to their homes. Not everyone who registered completed the course, but those who attended even briefly gained valuable experience and have become familiar with the vision and service of Toastmasters International.
The graduates, on the other hand, who consistently completed assignments and gave speeches, have developed valuable communication and leadership skills to take with them to their interviews, their new jobs and their everyday interactions. In turn, their determination to change a difficult situation into an opportunity for personal and professional growth has inspired the Stamano club. John, one of our recharged members, expressed that new enthusiasm to serve by asking, “How soon can we do it again?”
Does your club need to be rejuvenated? Why not serve the needs of others by offering your skills and experience? You’ll be amazed at the overflow of energy that comes back to you.
Editor’s Note: For more information about Speechcraft, go to www.toastmasters.org/speechcraft.
Eleanor Guderian, ACG, CL, is vice president education of the Stamano Toastmasters in Stanwood, Washington. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Translating Toastmasters to Jobs
Role-playing in Table Topics can help job seekers.
Table Topics Questions for Interview Practice
- Why did you register for Speechcraft?
- What is your greatest strength?
- What is your biggest weakness? Tell what you are doing to turn the weakness into a strength.
Evaluate the hardest aspect of your performance in your last job.
- Describe what success means to you.
- Give one or two reasons why we should hire you.