Toastmasters International (http://www.toastmasters.org/) is a public speaking and leadership training program running in various countries across the world. I became a member of this non-profit organisation back in 2004 in Dubai. My dad introduced me to Toastmasters (TM) where he and his office colleagues used to get together every 2 weeks to practice speaking before an audience.
We all come across instances in our daily life where we need to speak up - whether it is an office presentation, dealing with clients, teaching, giving a farewell or welcome speech or simply talking things through with out spouses and children. Most of us feel nervous when we are up against a big audience and thats only natural. At toastmasters you are given the chance to practice before audience, before you have to actually speak in a real life situation. It is a very organised training program with a structured meeting design and training manual to follow. Every Toastmaster (member of the club) has to go up the levels as per the TM manual to improve their speaking skills.
I have personally benefited so much from this program that upon my return to Pakistan I decided to open a chapter in Lahore. So a group of us enthusiastic MBA fellows from LUMS, intiated the first chapter in Lahore, The LUMS Toastmasters Club.(http://www.facebook.com/pages/LUMS-Toastmasters-Club/105540849515567)
Toastmasters helps you improve your skills across different aspects of public speaking including voice clarity, body language, vocabulary and even styles of speech e.g. motivational, convincing, emotional, humorous. It is a fun place to be in and interact with people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds, professions and ages. Once you reach a certain level, you can then participate in regional speech competitions and finally enter the global Toastmasters conference held annually in different parts of United States. You can find a full overview of this amazing programme on their official website (http://www.toastmasters.org/).
I was visiting as a guest at the Karachi Toastmasters Club ((http://karachi.freetoasthost.org/)) meeting yesterday and I was utterly impressed by how professionally and enthusiastically the team is running the Club. Apart from building your speaking skills, Toastmasters is a great place to meet new people and to get motivated!