Today I attended the first 2014 session of Toastmasters Bogotá. This is all about training yourself to improve your public speaking skills: outlining, language use, body language, signposting, voice projection and even improvisation. Once a week, a bunch of people get together to listen to each other, assess, give feedback and basically learn when giving a speech. In the previous session, participants decide which role they are going to play: grammarian, fillers counter, timer, host, among others. And there are also chances for the guests who can participate in the table topics. Since I was a guest this time, I participated in the table topic "New years resolutions" and had to improvise a story that connected what the other guests had previously said.
What I liked the most was the vibe of the group. There was a very safe environment for giving a speech for the first time, for example, and then get feedback. To my eyes, this safe environment to learn unfolds thanks to the established criteria by Toastmasters International: they have handouts where they explain how to give feedback, the assessment criteria and the roles each participant should play. That is how even the participants who evaluate the speakers get feedback too.
Although this Bogotá chapter of Toastmasters International is quite young compared to others chapters around the world, it does seem to open an alternative, safe space to improve not only public speaking skills but your English proficiency level too. I really loved the experience and I'll do my best to keep attending... to be honest, I cannot wait to be the Grammarian some other time!
If this info rings your bell, you can contact them on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ToastmastersBogota
Or if you want to learn about chapters of Toastmasters around the world, check this out: http://www.toastmasters.org/