70 PM NETWORK FEBRUARY 2017 WWW.PMI.ORG
Ronald B. Smith, PMP, teaches project manage-
ment to technical graduate students at the
University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA.
How a public speaking club helped one project manager refine skills.
By Ronald B. Smith, PMP
management capabilities and self-confidence grow.
I also gained practice in respecting the ideas and
viewpoints of others. In short, I became a better
Later in my career, I took a job as a senior
project/program manager in the project management organization of an international software
company. Because of my previous positive experiences, I decided to start a Toastmasters club at
my new organization. The CIO heard about it and
called me into his office to tell me it was a great
idea. Client feedback surveys showed that his IT
department did a very poor job with communications, and he wanted to improve this situation.
So, with the help of local Toastmasters directors,
I built up the club. Several months later, client
surveys showed that IT had made great progress in
improving its communications. As a side benefit,
the company club helped strengthen relationships
among employees, which enhanced the probability
of having more successful projects.
I encourage project managers looking to
improve their communication abilities to consider
Toastmasters or other communications development opportunities. Falling short in these crucial
skills is no minor problem in a career where
communicating can take up 90 percent of your
time. In fact, poor communication is a primary
factor in 30 percent of failed projects, according
to PMI’s 2016 Pulse of the Profession®: The High
Cost of Low Performance. Project managers must
take proactive steps to improve their skills—and
ultimately their projects. PM
In my 30 years of project management, I have found the majority of new proj- ect managers lack skills around giving presentations, conducting meetings and listening. This communication skills gap
can be particularly large if the new project manager came from a role in a very technical area like
databases or IT security.
When I started my career, my own communication abilities were not up to the challenge either.
To improve, I joined a Toastmasters International
club. This global nonprofit organization helps
members develop their speaking and leadership
skills. Through practice and feedback from other
Toastmasters members, I saw my communications
Getting It Done PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN ACTION