Toastmasters & Social Technology

On Nov 2, 1920, KDKA becomes the first radio station in the US, broadcasting election results. The first “radio election” is held in 1924, also the year Ralph Smedley forms what will become “Toastmasters International”. The skills Mr Smedley is looking to develop will serve practitioners well is the age of mass media.

On Nov 4, 2008, we saw the dawn of the Web 2.0 election. Once again, the underlying technology was available before, but society needs to accept the medium before it can hear the message. However, the skills developed in Toastmasters serve the same purpose as before, and have not diminished in importance in over eighty years.
What is Web 2.0
Many people will describe Web 2.0 in terms of technology, REST and SOAP. RSS and ATOM. I want to discuss a behavior. Authoring. The largest change in these applications is the ability for users to act as providers as well as consumers. The ease of authoring, and ability to mashup new content turns “viewers” into “doers”.
Blogging is short for “web log” and just means that people can easily add articles to on ongoing log. These are generally organized chronologically, and may have additional labels for keyword organization

Microblogging is similar, but generally limited to 140 characters. This limitation is the length of a single text message from your cell phone. As text messaging grows in popularity, microblogging sites are a great way to increase ad-hoc writing from your mobile device

Podcasting and videocasting refer to user-generated audio/visual content. Viewers can subscribe to these channels and watch them both on their computer or on their mobile device like cell phone or iPod.

Impact on Toastmasters
Blogs and Microblogs – The writing required by blogging helps us to organize our thoughts and form a coherent article. Microblogging (limited to 140 characters) forces us to use interesting language and get to the point. The first four speeches in the CC manual focus on these skills.
Video and Podcasts– We can use audio/video sites to watch influential speakers as well as solicit feedback from evaluators all over the world. This reinforces the skills speeches 5 & 6 are designed to develop.
Photos – Collaborative photo sharing sites give access to unencumbered images that we can use in our own presentations. The eighth speech in the manual requires these skills.
Personal Use
I have personally benefited from these techniques and I want to offer some personal insights. I have found many Toastmasters on Twitter, and been found by some as well. Their messages give the “pulse” of Toastmasters for those who are interested.
I have used YouTube when preparing for speech contests. There are many example speeches with great content to help the brainstorming process. You can also watch for body language or verbal cues. To give back to all of those who have inspired me on YouTube, this speech is available as well.
LinkedIn provides a Toastmasters District group in my area. By joining, I met someone in my industry with similar specialties as well as over 20 years experience. This instantly developed my personal network and gave me a sounding board for future projects.
We can see that although the medium has changed drastically over time, the methods for effective communication have not. By focusing on fundamental skills; speaking, listening and thinking, we can achieve our goals, today and tomorrow.

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