Give a speech in front of a group of people — in front of a huge crowds — you must be kidding!
That is the response many of us have to the idea of speaking in public.
And, believe it or not, many people who join Toastmasters have those same fears.
Some people never get over their nervousness.
We call it learning to make your butterflies fly in formation.
A certain amount of nervousness keeps you alert.
You lose your edge if you are too relaxed.
The Williams Lake Toastmasters meet Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Central Interior Services Cooperative Building, at 51 South Fourth Ave. (alley entrance) September through June.
The agenda is sent out to members each week so that everyone will know how many speeches there are that evening and which individuals have volunteered to take part in the formalities of the meeting.
During the evening, the selected individuals will deliver a 30-second to one-minute joke, an inspirational message, and two-minute impromptu talk.
Introductions are also given each night with the theme in mind and also a new word from the grammarian.
There could be an ice-breaker speech, a speech of four-to-seven minutes or a 15-minute speech from advanced Toastmasters.
Some evenings there will be a short business session or lesson which is an informational talk.
This is beneficial to new and advanced Toastmaster members.
We learn through education sessions as well as by participating and doing.
Table topic questions and answers can be a lot of fun, once you are over your initial nervousness. Answers to these questions can be the truth or a lie or an exaggeration — it does not matter.
The idea is to get an opening, a body and a closing in two minutes, thinking on your feet.
The table topic master knows ahead of time and can prepare their questions for the theme of the night or for any topic that interests them.
It could be a question from a deck of table topic cards or completing a sentence, perhaps: “My greatest fear is ….”
In addition to the table topics there will be an assigned grammarian, an “ah,” “umm” counter, a time keeper, speech adjudicator and general evaluator chosen for the night, usually chosen one week ahead.
When giving speeches, introductions or two-minute table topic answers individuals will try to work on an aspect of delivery which they want to improve.
The adjudicator will evaluate the speeches and table topics for delivery and not for content.
An evaluation will help individuals gain self-confidence. It is not a criticism, but a constructive evaluation pointing out where you can improve and what has impressed the evaluator.
It is one person’s opinion of how you present yourself.
The adjudicator will look for eye contact between you and the audience, watch for any nervous ticks, such as too many gestures, fiddling with a pen, etc.
The “ah” counter will be counting how many times you say “umm” when you speak. Once you are at a few meetings you will begin to notice speakers on television and how many “umms” they use in their speeches.
Toastmasters progress by levels depending on the number of speeches they give in a year, participation on the executive and in club, district, provincial and regional speech competitions.
The conventions and events are held in beautiful places such as Harrison Hot Springs, around the province and can also be held in places such as Las Vegas.
The more you do, the more you will get out of it.
Many people have said that they enjoy coming each week. You will feel comfortable coming as everyone is there for a similar purpose, to feel comfortable speaking in front of others.
“When I first came to Toastmaster I could not even get up and say my name,” says Dorothy Ingalls. After this she participated in three speech contests. She came in third the first year, second the second year and first in the third year.
I love listening to her stories. She can draw them out of her memory and give you a fun brief interlude into her life.
Even though participation is the key, not everyone is looking to become a master speechmaker. People join for many different reasons.
Williams Lake Toastmasters’ secretary-treasurer Mark Stevens demonstrates the power of controlled hand gestures in his speech.
They may want to build self-esteem, self-confidence, and improve their communication and listening skills. You may improve a little or a lot, but you will definitely improve.
Just ask any member we have now. Everyone has improved even if they don’t notice or think they have.
“I’ve benefitted a lot from Toastmasters in terms of confidence, speaking ability and meeting many new friends,” says Cody Slinn.
Delaikr Ignatius says: “I believe Toastmasters has helped me to express my voice with poise. I am very proud to say I am a second generation Toastmaster of my family.”
“I find Toastmasters to be very beneficial,” says Kelyn Paul. “It has taught me the tools to use with public speaking such as being aware of using “ahs” and “ums,” knowing when to pause, but mainly being comfortable speaking in front of crowds.
Cheryl Chan says she and her husband, Jamie, joined Toastmasters to become better speakers, gain self-esteem and to be able to make and maintain eye contact with people.
“Jamie and I are in the business of real estate investing,” Chan says. “I have been going to Toastmasters since January 2012 and it has helped me by coming out of my shell to offer to get up in front of a group, trying to refrain from saying too many “ahs,” “ums,” and “sos” when you are nervous to fill in the silent spots.”
Toastmasters are involved in the community in many ways, most notably in the public speaking training for the Stampede Queen contestants each year. This year the club is training four contestants.
The club meets for an hour one night a week.
Come out and feel free to speak!