Toastmasters Mainline President, Phillip Hagerty and Officer PJ Cline, discussed how the international organization helps people gain confidence and become better communicators. Founded by Ralph Smedley in 1924 to assist troubled youth in gaining self-confidence by public speaking, Toastmasters, a non-profit, community-based, volunteer organization, is now found in 143 countries, with nearly 17,000 chapters and over half-a-million members. Famous members included talk host Chris Matthews, astronaut James Lovell and Leonard Nimoy.
Toastmasters tackles the number one fear of most people, the fear of speaking in public and provides tools and tricks to bolster self-confidence and ability. PJ described building a talk like a sandwich, repeating the question or topic – for clarity and time – at the beginning and repeating as a summation at the end, then using the content you’re conveying as the ‘meat’ of the speech. She noted that Toastmasters can help with vocal speech tics and unnecessary hand gestures, using them instead for emphasis or to make a point. Phil and PJ encouraged anyone who needs to work on their presentation skills, build self-confidence and leadership try Toastmaster, it provides a safe, supportive, and fun environment to practice and improve public speaking skills. It is also good for non-native speakers to polish their language skills and learn local speech and mannerisms. Toastmesters embraces diversity, anyone, from any background, young and old are welcome to attend. Membership fees are considerably less than a public speaking course, about $100 a year, and are offered at various times and locations. A typical meeting allows for everyone to speak in a variety of formats such as impromptu or prepared speeches, and members gain leadership skills by emceeing the meetings and being a mentor. For business professionals Phil especially recommended Pathways, an organized step-by-step path allowing members to discover their strengths and weaknesses and proceed at their own pace.
Meetings are typically held twice-per-month at a location decided by the chapter members, some are maintained by corporations as a professional development resource, some are hosted by religious groups, others by colleges. Whether the group meets in a board room or a local tavern, Phil and PJ say it’s a great opportunity to learn about other’s interests and to network. They recommend visiting a meetings to see if the chapter is good fit for you.
Find a chapter that fits your personality and location at toastmasters.org