As a product manager, I have found Toastmasters to be a vital component of my personal growth plan. This blog post will explain why I think it’s the perfect training for a product manager. I remember when I first joined Toastmasters. I thought I just wanted to improve my public speaking skills. As a product manager you are often called upon to do a demo or presentation about your product. As well, you are often called to report to executives the progress of your product.
I think my club was getting tired of hearing so much about my product, but I noticed a marked improvement in my ability to present. Whether it was customers, field staff, or executives, I was seeing a significant better response from my audiences. I would share short sections of a longer presentation to my club and made improvements based on the feedback. The photo below is me presenting at a “customer day” in Aukland, New Zealand.
At one point, one of my peers told me that he knew Toastmasters was working for me when I told a VP “no” and in the end the VP was glad I told him no. When fielding questions from VP’s about your product, the Toastmasters Tabletopics practice is extremely valuable. Being able to think on your feet and communicate effectively in your 2-3 minute response is critical. You don’t always get a lot of time in front of executives and you want to make the most of it.
The other thing that Toastmaster’s can help is in your listening skills. By giving speech evaluations, you learn to listen beyond the words to fully understand what the speaker is talking about. This practice of evaluations in Toastmasters meetings can improve your listening skills. Whether your listening to a customer, an engineer, or a VP, listening is a vital skill to a product manager.
Even with improving your presentation skills, your impromptu speaking for that important meeting with a VP, or your listening skills for hearing really what that customer is saying. I believe the biggest benefit Toastmasters can provide a product manager is in your leadership skills. Typically product managers have to lead marketing, engineering, & sales in their product. You will have to lead engineering to make sure they are building the right product. You will have to lead marketing to make sure they are communicating the benefits effectively. You will have to lead sales to make sure they have the materials to effectively sell your product. Leading in a nonprofit like Toastmasters is in many ways like leading as a product manager. Even if you have employees the leadership skills gained will help you be more effective across the entire company.
If you don’t have Toastmasters in your personal growth plan, be sure to consider it going forward.