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A toast to public speaking

 | February 2, 2010

When you think about speaking in public, does your heart palpitate and your hands get clammy? Speech anxiety, or glossophobia, is a fear that most people have. Fortunately, something can be done to make this fear manageable. In fact, there’s a group in Sun Peaks that meet every Wednesday, 7 p.m. at the Delta Sun Peaks Resort to do just that.

Hearing the banter in the room, you wouldn’t think this group would have qualms about public speaking. Punctuated by laughter and animated exchanges, the conversations continue only until the gavel pounds loudly on the lectern.

toastmasters

The Toastmasters meeting has begun.

“It’s a club that was started back in the 1920s in California by a group of friends who wanted to get together and work on being able to toast—to speak at weddings or at social events,” explained Sun Peaks’ Toastmasters club founder Michael Miezlaiskis on Toastmasters International’s origin. “The group helps everyone from people who are already professional speakers to people who have a fear of speaking and just want to get comfortable with themselves in front of an audience.”

Toastmasters’ Club Sun Peaks members began meeting in November 2009. Miezlaiskis said he would love to see more members join so they can become an official Toastmasters club.

“It’s a nice addition to our community,” said Miezlaiskis. “You get to meet people, you get to talk in a safe environment and just have a great time.”

“I think it’s a great club to be part of,” said Delta employee Katie Hutton, who joined Toastmasters to improve her speech writing and delivery. “I wanted to become more confident in speaking,” said Hutton. “I was recently promoted to a People Resources Coordinator position, and public speaking is something that I will do a lot more.”

The main goal is to give everyone a chance to talk for at least two minutes. To achieve this, each member assumes a role. The chairperson is in charge of the evening’s proceedings. There’s a jest master who comes up with a joke while another person shares an inspirational message.

To help members become more eloquent, a grammarian counts each speaker’s ahs and ums and introduces the Word of the Day. Members who use this word gain points with a winner announced at the end. Just for fun, a new position called the snack master was recently added, you guessed it, to provide munchies.

A traffic light, manned by a timer, is at the back of the room indicating how much time has passed. Green is for one minute, yellow is for one and a half minute, and red is for two minutes.

This particular evening, the theme is new beginnings. A third of the time is spent on impromptu table topic speeches and another third on longer prepared speeches. This isn’t about listening to boring speeches either as speakers choose topics that pique the interest. Point in fact: one speech was on how to fold a shirt in less than 10 seconds.

The remaining time is spent on evaluations. Each speaker’s strengths and weaknesses are noted through constructive criticism.

Is it effective? Members attest that since they’ve started the program, it’s gotten easier to speak in front of a crowd. The ahs and ums have also gone down from 38 to six. If your goals this year include improving public speaking skills, why not give Toastmasters a try? Membership fee is $30 for six months.

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