Presentation skills = Workplace success

Presentation skills = Workplace success

By Jonathan Bauer | Employment Solutions for Immigrants

As professionals, whether we’re participating in a team meeting or making a presentation, we all have to speak in public from time to time. Yet public speaking is one of those tasks that even self-assured people sometimes dread. What’s the secret to being confident and comfortable in front of a room full of people? Dorothy Villegas, a Toastmasters member with Advanced Communication and Leadership Bronze levels, offers two tips: “Prepare and practice, practice, practice. And, say yes to every opportunity that will help you strengthen your communication skills.”

Dorothy came to Canada from the Philippines in 2007. As a Computer Applications Instructor for adult learners, Dorothy had plenty of experience with public speaking and presentation in her home country but found that in Canadian settings she had to adapt to different communication styles. She quickly identified that honing her public speaking and communication skills, including casual day-to-day conversation abilities (or small-talk), was important for workplace success.

Lionel Laroche, an expert on cultural diversity, explains that presentation skills are vital in the Canadian workplace. “Canadians start learning presentation skills in kindergarten with ‘show and tell,’” says Laroche. “In some countries, people aren’t expected to make public presentations until well into university.” In Canada, developing your presentation and public speaking skills is one of the keys to advancing your career.

Looking for ways to improve her public speaking skills and career prospects, Dorothy joined Toastmasters and then founded a local Toastmasters club in 2009. Toastmasters involves “learn-by-doing workshops” where participants hone their communication and leadership skills. “Toastmasters gets you thinking on your feet,” says Dorothy.

During the weekly meeting, club participants assign each other a topic to talk about impromptu for one to two minutes. It’s a skill that transfers well to the workplace: Whether you’re called to present at a meeting, talking with a new customer, or problem-solving with your colleagues, the ability to think quickly and speak confidently is highly valued. “Toastmasters taught me to be resourceful and to adjust my approach depending on who I was talking to,” says Dorothy.

Today, Dorothy mentors new members who join Start Communicating, the Toastmasters club she helped to found at Employment Solutions for Immigrants. The goal of the club is to create a friendly environment where newcomers can practice public speaking and build their confidence for presenting and communicating in the Canadian workplace. “Joining a Toastmasters club ensures that you keep using your public speaking skills,” Dorothy adds. “By practicing every week, your confidence will grow.”

If you are looking to advance your career, develop leadership skills, build your business portfolio, or stand out in your workplace, developing your public speaking and presentation skills will definitely enhance your career prospects. Dorothy quotes Zig Ziglar when giving advice to new club members: “You don’t need to be great to start, but you need to start to be great.”

For more information about the Toastmasters club at Employment Solutions, Start Communicating, visit