as originally posted on Quora.com
I wouldn’t answer this question as an either or response. I would say yes to both and then some.
I have never taken a class on speech skills offered by a college. Nor have I ever seen one offered in my local college and/or university. There can be advantages to taking the course, as well as disadvantages.
I would expect that the program would only be as good as the instructor’s ability and passion for the subject. I have seen far too many adult educators that aren’t a good fit for what they are teaching. Classroom speaking training sessions often have a reputation of being rather stilted or stale. You would learn the mechanics, which is good, but you may be restricted in the advice and recommendations you get to be help you move to the next level.
The odds are high that many of your fellow classmates are taking the course because they need the credit for whatever program they are enrolled in, or hopefully they actually have an interest in learning to speak effectively. This has a downside in that they are only of limited value to you in providing effective feedback to help take your speaking skills to the next level. They don’t have the experience on the subject to be able to advise you.
So if you have the time, money and inclination, I would say take the speaking course. There is bound to be some merit to the program.
As for free platforms, I’m not sure what they would even look like. I would suggest that anyone interested in developing their public speaking skills build their own resource library. Books and manuals can easily be found at yard sales, rummage sales and thrift shops. I have used an on-line company called Abe Books for searching for inexpensive books on specific topics. I have found that even finding one gem in a book can make a big difference for my speaking and presenting ability.
There is a third choice and that is to check out a local Toastmasters club. It isn’t like a classroom session at all. That may cause some people problems. In a club setting, members run the meetings. The Toastmasters Communication & Leadership Program is self-directed and self-paced. At any given meeting, you could have a very experienced member deliver a speech as well as somebody brand new. Members provide constructive feedback whenever you speak. This is one of the main differences between a classroom program and Toastmasters. In a classroom you are more likely to be evaluated on your performance. Toastmasters is more like personal coaching. Like anything in life you are free to accept the feedback or not. Toastmasters is not a pass/fail program as a college program would be.
As a 22 year member of Toastmasters, so far, I believe that I am well aware of the pros and cons of our program. I truly believe that the program is the best that you can buy for your money. There is a caveat though. You can’t learn public speaking by osmosis. You have to actually get up and do it.
It is often said that “practice makes perfect.” That saying isn’t entirely true. If you keep practicing the same ineffective behaviours, in any endeavour, you are going to get the same ineffective results. However, if you act upon the constructive feedback you receive, you are more likely to achieve better results. It certainly has for me.
For further discussion on public speaking, speech development, communication skills and Toastmasters, visit the Live For Excellence Book Store for the following publications:
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Rae A. Stonehouse is an author, speaker, and self-publishing consultant dedicated to helping others embrace constant improvement and overcome challenges. With over 40 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in psychiatry and mental health, Rae brings a wealth of knowledge and passion for self-development to his writing and presentations.
As a 25+ year member of Toastmasters International, Rae has systematically built his communication abilities and self-confidence to share his insights as an author and speaker. His self-help books and personal development presentations aim to have conversational one-on-one connections with readers and audiences.
Rae is known for his wry sense of humor and sage advice delivered in a relatable coaching style. After four decades as a nurse, Rae has rewired rather than retired, actively writing and pursuing public speaking. He strives to share lessons learned to help others achieve personal and professional growth.