Many people are terrified of public speaking, but thousands of people have overcome their fears and developed this valuable skill at one of thousands of Toastmasters International club around the world.
In Moscow, we are lucky to have such an organization which is open to all English speakers to improveâ¨not only their communication ability, but also their leadership. Moscow Free Speakers is the oldest English language Toastmaster club in Russia still in existence, founded by Mr Robert Meyerson in 1989. The two earlier Toastmaster clubs he founded at MGU and MGIMO only lasted a few years, but his third attempt with Moscow Free Speakers Club has thrived to the present day.
Founded during a time when freedom of speechâ¨ did not exist in Moscow, the club continues to follow the internationally recognized Toastmaster educational programmes originally developed by Dr Ralph Smedley in 1924. The current membership is a wonderful assortment of diverse people who all share a passionâ¨for becoming better public speakers and helping each other improve. Anyone who has spent time in Russia will know the value of a good drinking toast, but the clubâs programme helps individuals to improve all aspects of interpersonal communication.
The public speaking educational programme dovetails with the leadership programme as all speakers are evaluated and provided with constructive criticism to help them improve. Even the evaluators themselves receive feedback about the quality of their evaluations, so no one is above the court of public opinion! The structured part of the meeting allows members to present prepared projects which focus on specific aspects of public speaking such as gestures, motivation, or vocal variety.
The more relaxed âtable topicsâ session encourages members and guests to think quickly and give short, impromptu speeches on chosen topics.
Most people are not natural public-speakers, but those willing to take the risks are eventually rewarded with more confidence and the respect of their listeners. Skills learnt here can be applied to work and personal life regardless of the industry or country, hence Toastmaster International clubs can be found in most cities around the world. Life as an expat in Moscow can sometimes leave you speechless, but there is always plenty of material for speeches: donât keep it all to yourself.
The club also organizes special events and speech contests to put members in healthy competitionâ¨to perform at a higher level. Moscow Expat Lifeâs photographer was lucky enough to visit the club on its Halloween themed meeting, which forced speakers and evaluators to add some spookiness to their performances.
The friendly atmosphere of the club and the opportunity to speak freely has survived three decades. Moscow Free Speakers Club welcomes intrepid guests and curious newcomers to visitâ¨a meeting, and even participate in the traditionâ¨if they wish. Meetings are held on alternating Thursday nights at 7pm in the Gorniy Institute near Oktyaborskaya metro station. More information can be found on their website: http://moscowfreespeakers.ru/
Special thanks to Henry Norman for assisting with the clubâs history