“Most people come to Toastmasters to learn how to speak in public. It is one of people's biggest fears. They join the club when they see that public speaking can be learned in a positive and helpful atmosphere. It is not like a class - it is mutual helpfulness in a friendly group - with great materials and examples.” - Shawn Watson, President of Toastmasters Tampere
Toastmasters is a non-profit educational organization which operates worldwide to help members develop public speaking and leadership skills in a supportive learn-by-doing environment. The club in Tampere is well-known for its friendly international atmosphere with members originating from United States of America, China, Japan, Indonesia, Finland, Romania and many other countries.
“The international side is vibrant as we all come from different countries and we bring distinctive backgrounds and cultures. Everyone is really open and easy to communicate to. We don’t need any actual skills to be here, but a strong desire to learn and improve our speaking skills.” - Annisa Rantanen, Toastmasters Tampere member, originally from Indonesia
Area Director and a woman with a multifaceted personality is Romanian Adriana Vasilache. Adriana moved to Tampere in January, 1998 to join her husband at that time and she admits her first impression of the city did not leave much room for enthusiasm. “I felt disappointed by the architecture of the city. But then again, I moved to Finland from France where I did my PhD so the difference was immense. As I spent more time here, I began to appreciate the closeness to nature and the possibilities of being outdoors and practicing different sports. I also noticed how well-organized everything is and the lesser amount of bureaucracy compared to Romania or France. I turned my attention to the positive things.”
Ambition goes hand in hand with self-development
During her first years in Tampere, she focused on completing a second PhD at Tampere University of Technology in parallel with her family life. Soon after publishing her doctoral thesis, “On vector quantization with regular geometrical structure”, an opportunity came to work in Nokia Corporation and she’s been a Senior Researcher since. But Adriana didn’t stop here. Her ambition and continuous interest in self-development were set to reach higher peaks. “First time I visited the Toastmasters club was in March 2014, as a one-time guest. One month later, I wrote to them and asked if I could become a member. In a way, it started with a challenge to try to share more things about myself. Even though I’ve been speaking in conferences or giving presentations previously, most of them were technical and related to my profession. I stepped out of my comfort zone and this really helped me knowing myself better. I believe that when you’re really eager to observe your thoughts and actions and understand why you’re acting and reacting in a particular way, you can reach a deeper understanding of who you are.”
From member of Toastmasters to Area Director in charge of 5 clubs in Finland
Adriana’s progress with Toastmasters took place in a relatively short time frame. She was a Vice-President of Education for 2 years and the next role as an Area Director means she is providing guidance for 5 other clubs in Finland and also organizing 2 training sessions for club officers and 2 speech contests per year. “When taking in more tasks following my new role, I saw this as a way of giving back some of what I received. In time, I acquired competences on public speaking and leadership so I became more courageous about giving workshops myself on “Verbal and non-verbal communication”, “Personal values”, “Stress management” and “Emotional intelligence” in Tampereen lyseo high school, Tampere University of Applied Sciences or even at my workplace. The most recent workshop was for the students in Demola and the goals were to introduce them to multiple techniques of public speaking and help them getting on with pitches for projects.”
“These workshops bring significance to my life and it’s important to me to feel I have an impact on the people I’m addressing to. There comes a time in a person’s life when you want to add more relevance to the human aspects of life and that’s why I learned about personal development techniques which are never ending sources of knowledge. Using codecs and technology on a daily basis are practical and of use, but it doesn’t touch the inside of a person.” she continues.
Toastmasters meetings are charged with human warmth and the overall feeling is of a big, international family. Adriana tells she has witnessed several emotional speeches and the more personal they’re delivered, the bigger the impact on the audience. Maybe it’s a tendency, but women are more inclined to share personal stories, while men are keeping it fact-based and talk about professional experiences. Notwithstanding, the memorable speeches are the ones which come from a deeper core. And the feedback system is encouraging people to open up. “We give feedback but you really learn how to give it so that it’s constructive and helps people develop, not shutting them down and trigger their defenses.”
Why should you join Toastmasters Tampere?
“The top skill would have to be learning to speak in public. But that translates into greater self-esteem, more ability to get your point across when dealing with other people in a myriad of situations. When a person can speak confidently it opens up a world of opportunities.” is Shawn’s answer.
“For working life, I have found the evaluation skills very useful. In the same time, I’m keeping my English skills up. The reason why I still hold on to the club is the unique, continuous learning experience it offers. And of course, it allows you to meet interesting people and make new friends.” says Teija Vehmas from Finland, who’s been with the club since the beginning, for almost 10 years now.
Adriana adds: “There are several ways to look at it. If you need to give speeches in your professional life, it’s clearly a tool to help you structure your speech, how to behave while giving it, how to be persuasive and connect with your audience. When you’re able to express yourself freely on stage, your self-confidence and abilities of interacting with others increase. I have mainly stressed the communication skills, but you also get leadership skills and learn how to manage a team of diverse people. Toastmasters offers you plenty of opportunities of networking. The activities we organize don’t stop at the club level so you get a chance to make acquaintances with people from different countries and backgrounds in a relaxed environment. The fun part of our meetings is table topics where we are supposed to give a two-minute speech out of the blue. You get a question, think for 30 seconds and then you have to come up with an answer that makes sense. And we have humorous speeches where people get really creative.
These are good practices for life, when you don’t have a chance to prepare for a certain situation and you have to be spontaneous. But practice makes perfect.”
Toastmasters in a nutshell!
Toastmasters meetings take place every other Thursday in TAKK’s 5th floor, at 18:00. First meeting of 2017 is on 19th of January. All meetings are in English and as a guest, you can simply show up and bring a friend with you too. If you decide to become a member, there is a membership fee of 40€ per half a year. An additional fee of 20€ is compulsory at the beginning so you can have full access to the first two manuals, “Competent communication” and “Competent leadership”.
Competent communication manual includes 10 projects on general public speaking techniques. Once you have completed them, you can move on to advanced manuals which have 5 projects each. Topics are:
•The Entertaining Speaker
•Speaking to Inform
•Speeches by Management
•The Professional Speaker
•Communicating on Video
•Special Occasion Speeches
Competent leadership manual is project-work based on how to conduct meetings, how to give feedback, how to organize events and so on. There are also further advanced leadership programs.
There are prepared and improvised speeches during the meetings followed by feedback. On the course of a meeting, people are allocated roles like chair, speakers, reviewers, time-keeper, ah-counter (a person who makes notes of any overused words or filler sounds used as a crutch by anyone who speaks during the meeting) and grammarian. When preparing the speeches, it’s important to follow the instructions in the manual on techniques (e.g. structure of speech, use of vocal variety, body language, use of visual aids and persuasive speaking). However, the topic of your speech is for you to choose and you are encouraged to be as creative as you desire.
During the year, two speech contests are organized starting with the club level and going all the way to European and international level.
Welcome to join us and achieve your goals in an international and relaxed atmosphere!