Toastmasters is more than public speaking, members says
Jan 29, 2013 (Tulsa World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Clarence Fisher joined the Toastmasters Broken Arrow Club two years ago after his wife convinced him that if he wanted his business to be more successful, he was going to have to be more outgoing and talk to more people.
"I do Internet marketing so I wouldn't have to talk to people," Fisher said during his speech exercise Monday afternoon. "My first Toastmasters meeting I was scared. I did my icebreaker speech, I talked about myself.
"My wife says I do that a lot, but in front of people, it's a totally different thing."
Fisher said he wavered about joining, but eventually became an active member and is now president of the Broken Arrow Club.
"I continue to come and continue to learn," he said.
Toastmasters International was founded in 1924 and now there are more than 13,500 clubs worldwide. Oklahoma has almost 90 clubs, the oldest the Tulsa Club founded 73 years ago.
Most clubs average about 20 to 30 members and usually meet weekly or every two weeks.
The clubs work to help people develop their communications and leadership skills through public speaking and peer evaluations.
Shirley Hall has been a member of several Toastmasters clubs for close to 30 years.
"Toastmasters isn't a speaking organization, Toastmasters is a people organization," Hall said.
The club taught Hall how to not only speak in front of a room full of people, but also how to speak in front of small groups, one-on-one with associates and even her teenage daughter.
"Toastmasters gives you the confidence, especially when you're the new one on the floor," she said. "You have this community around you to support you."
During the meetings, two people prepare speeches for specific scenarios that are usually eight to 10 minutes long while another member evaluates the speaker.
Table Topics is when a member prepares several questions relating to that week's topic and then randomly asks them to members who have to come up with an impromptu answer.
Molly Van Auken joined in October and appreciates the evaluations from other members.
"I need the feedback to learn. If someone wasn't there to tell me what I did right and what I did wrong, I wouldn't know," she said.
The evaluations and feedback are always done in a positive way, said Mary Lemmond, public relations officer for Oklahoma's Toastmasters clubs.
"We call it a safe place to fail. We never want to denigrate someone. We're all learning."
Oklahoma's oldest Toastmasters clubs
73 years: Tulsa Club, founded Oct. 30, 1939
71 years: Bartlesville Toastmasters Club, March 1, 1941
65 years: Conoma Toastmasters Club in Bethany, April 1, 1947
64 years: Will Rogers Toastmasters Club in Tulsa, Aug. 1, 1948
64 years: Stillwater Toastmasters Club, Oct. 1, 1948
Source: Toastmasters International
To find a Toastmasters club, go to tulsaworld.com/toastmasters.
Sara Plummer 918-581-8465
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