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Sylviane Descotte and Dirk Stockmans, committee members of Bossuet Gaveliers, the oldest Toastmasters club in Europe, part of the educational non-profit organisation born 100 years ago, discussed the club’s importance and benefits.

Sylviane noted that with the rise of AI and automation, 92% of talent professionals and hiring managers agree that job candidates need strong soft skills more than ever. Oral communication, leadership and time management are some of the most sought-after. According to Sylviane, practising public speaking and related skills every two weeks makes progress and lasting impact much more likely than taking soft skill courses.

Bossuet Gaveliers aim to offer participants a safe space to regularly practice public speaking, leadership, and other soft skills in English.

Dirk explained that the group meets every second and fourth Wednesday of the month in the Kirchberg district. The meeting starts with one of the members presenting a toast (a mini-speech). Then, they practice impromptu speaking, giving a one- to two-minute coherent reply to a question. “This has helped me frequently in my professional life, allowing me to respond quickly, succinctly, and coherently when a senior manager asked me an unexpected question at a big meeting.

Sylviane added that Bossuet Gaveliers offers dinner next, making it the only Toastmasters club in the Greater Region to offer this. “Many busy professionals join us straight after work to combine learning and relaxing over good food,” she added.

In the second part of the meeting, two to four members give a prepared speech according to a project in Toastmasters’ eLearning system. Each project focuses on a particular skill: structuring a speech, using vocal variety, body language, etc.

The third part of the evening is the evaluation section, in which the speakers receive constructive and structured feedback about their speeches and suggestions for improvement. Everyone in the meeting contributes and learns either by presenting a toast, timing, evaluating, etc. and listening to other speakers and their evaluators can also be insightful, Dirk added.

Sylviane said: “Toastmasters was founded 100 years ago in California, as a non-profit organisation to help young people improve their public speaking skills. Bossuet Gaveliers, founded in 1956, was the first Toastmasters Club in continental Europe, so we are celebrating our 68th anniversary.”

On 27 March, the group will organise a centennial celebration evening for Toastmasters, which everyone interested in improving their public speaking skills can attend. This is a possibility to discover how meetings are run, including impromptu and prepared speeches and evaluations. The club will offer a welcome drink on the house, and one of the guests will go home with a free one-year Toastmasters membership. Registrations can be made at .