Tag Archives: public speaking

Toastmasters Thursdays

21 Feb

Today is Thursday, which in my world is Toastmasters Day.  I think I first heard of Toastmasters when I was in junior high; perhaps it was one of my dad’s Rotary club colleagues who told me it was something I should do.  I never actually checked it out, though, until I moved to Whitehorse.

I remember my first experience with impromptu speaking in front of an audience.  It was in Grade 4 and Mrs. Kozyra had each of us get up on the stage in turn; we pulled a random object out of a box, and we were to speak about it for perhaps a minute.  A long and painful minute, as it turned out. 

I still remember the object I drew out: a rock.  It was an ordinary rock, an altogether unremarkable rock.  And while these days I could very likely speak for several minutes about even an unremarkable rock, at that time my speech consisted of describing how it looked (which likely took about 15 seconds) staring at it, giggling in embarrassment, and saying “um” a lot before mercifully being allowed to flee the stage.  I was in awe of the kids who could go up and not only talk for a full minute without a single embarrassed giggle, but could do it with wit and humour.

Fortunately I’ve managed to become a better presenter over the years — aging 20 years has helped — but I still find impromptu speaking a challenge.  Oh, I can talk.  But there are so many thoughts in my head, I can’t seem to get them organized.  Or rather, they don’t all come to mind at once, so I present them in a disjointed fashion.  I think I usually eventually get my point across, but it’s not necessarily in the most logical order, or the most efficient.  Or the most enjoyable, for that matter.  (This happens when I write, too, but of course I then have the opportunity to edit.  If I feel like it.)

When I found out there is a Toastmasters club that meets at lunchtime at the library each week, I was thrilled; no more excuses not to try it out!  I haven’t been a member for very long — I officially joined in October — but I can already feel a difference in my impromptu speaking skills.  I’m pretty good at avoiding the dreaded word “um” these days, and I’m getting better at organizing my speeches.  Getting to practice every week is a huge benefit; after the Christmas break, I felt markedly less comfortable and wasn’t able to speak as smoothly I could before; it took a week or two to get back up to speed.  I also appreciate the constructive feedback from more seasoned members; it’s always balanced and positive, but I’m always given suggestions for ways to improve.  (I’m now working on eliminating excessive use of the word “so” when I’m starting new sentences.)

What Toastmasters provides is a safe environment to learn and practice a skill that everyone should have.  We have members who, when they started, couldn’t even introduce themselves without blushing furiously, and who are now fabulous public speakers.  Besides public speaking skills, Toastmasters gives people the opportunity to develop leadership skills, as you can take on hosting and evaluation roles.

So (uh oh, there’s that “so”!) I always like Thursdays.  I get to talk, and I get to get better at it.  And we always get to laugh while we do it, too.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Toastmasters, check out the Toastmasters International website.

If you live in Whitehorse, here’s when the different clubs meet.  Guests are always welcome to drop in to check things out and you don’t even have to talk at all if you don’t want to.

Sundogs Toastmasters Club
12:00 p.m. Thursday
Public Library, 2071 Second Ave
Club Status: Open to all
Contact: Club president Margaret Cumming at 633-6228 or cumming *_at_* polarcom *_dot_* com 

Whitehorse Club
Meeting Time: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
The Yukon Inn, 4220 4th Ave
Club Status: Open to all 

Northern Voices Toastmasters Club
Meeting Time: 7:00 a.m. Wednesday
Sports Yukon, 4061 4th Ave
Club Status: Membership eligibility criteria required, contact club at 667-2389