Some say Toastmasters is the world’s best kept secret. At first, I found this hard to believe. In 2011, I was invited to a Toastmaster meeting. It sounded archaic, but I try everything once. I arrived and was greeted almost too warmly by a host of smiling strangers. The meeting commenced with a Sergeant at Arms startling me out of my stupor by pounding a gavel on a podium. I furtively glanced around to see if anyone else thought this was crazy. My heart pounded. “What alternate reality have I gotten myself into?”
After listening to speeches and evaluations I left the meeting resolved – never to return! Then the strangest twist happened. I finished writing my book Calm Focus Joy, a guide to helping children focus. More than anything, I wanted to spread my message to teachers, parents and eventually the world. I happened to attend a presentation by Darren Jacklin at Vernon secondary school. Darren was a dynamic and inspiring professional speaker. The students were mesmerized by his stories. When he finished the applause was deafening. I was awestruck. I wanted to be like him. But how? Later, I asked Darren, how do I learn to speak like you?” He said, “Join Toastmasters!” Inspired with new purpose to become a better speaker, I joined Toastmasters.
Four years later I am still attending weekly meetings and learning lots. My presentation skills are getting better. I have found that the more I practice the faster I progress. I have reduced my rambling rhetoric, redundant ums and ahs, and now feel relaxed on stage. I have overcome stage jitters and by doing am able to better connect with the audience. This is a rewarding experience! I am not alone. Almost everyone who has joined Toastmasters has expressed similar experiences. Now I know, Toastmasters is the world’s best kept secret!
You can join Toastmasters like Sherry Lukey, who joined to become a more confident presenter. If you want to be a manager of a business, work in public service, teach, be a politician or just improve your ESL skills, Toastmasters will give you the confidence to step on stage with a smile. You will meet like-minded people including authors, teachers, managers, construction workers, artists, politicians or professionals. Most important, each week you will have opportunity to share your ideas with an attentive and supportive audience.
Joining Toastmasters is easy and affordable. Find a club near you and just show up. Attend a couple of meetings and decide if public speaking is for you. We have six clubs in our area: Armstrong, Hi-Noon, Kalamalka, Monashee, Monday Night and Vernon Toastmasters. See www.toastmasters.org for more details.
I am Heidi Thompson and belong to Hi-Noon Toastmasters Club. We are hosting an open house on Wednesday, Jan. 18 from noon to 1 p.m. at Tom’s Place Restaurant, 3906-32nd St. Contact me for more information at 250-542-1551 or firstname.lastname@example.org