Give some thought to joining your local Toastmasters International club. Toastmasters is one of those great organizations where professional development, personal enrichment, fellowship and fun intersect. Its 16,400 clubs in 141 countries stand as reminders of the importance of good communication among all people–on the global, national, regional and local levels.
Do you wonder sometimes where folks from all walks of life and backgrounds can go to converse comfortably and effectively with each other? Can we still build communities of face-to-face discussion of diverse ideas, on a panoply of topics, in a relaxed, supportive atmosphere where there are still rules respecting personal dignity, propriety, group effectiveness, clarity, conciseness and the validity and vitality of words?
Toastmasters continues to nurture this miraculous mix. I happily can vouch for the organization, with more than six months of membership in a local South Bend branch called the Tuesday Night Toastmasters Club and my recent introduction to the broader organization through a multi-club speaking competition for “Area 12” in northwest Indiana. So far, I’ve presented four of the ten talks that constitute every member’s initial journey toward competence as a public speaker at the local club level. I volunteered to do an additional talk in the “tall tale” category, and my club entered me in the related area-wide challenge. There, I found further proof that Toastmasters attracts a great group of people who value oral communication because they value the solidarity and hope it nurtures.
Members also value the fact that each speech they deliver sharpens their skills and self-confidence in sharing insights, making them better contributors to the public discourse rather than mere spectators or passive consumers of information. However, we also do strive to become better consumers; the majority of our time in any meeting is spent listening to others in a structured, interactive way. Indeed, we critique each other’s presentations so we pay attention, we cultivate constructive dialogue and we affirm each other on a shared mission.
You can see our Tuesday Night Toastmasters Club facebook page and check out Toastmasters International. My thanks go to my local mentors who are pictured above, flanking me as the second-place winner and Damon Jones, from the TLC ToastMasters Ivy Tech club in Gary, IN. He earned his first-place honors with style. My South Bend colleagues are long-time members Dennis Njuguna, our club’s vice president for education (at left), and Bart Timm, club president and a regional leader (at right). Thanks to fellow member–actually, Fellow Toastmaster, as we call ourselves–Tyson Smith, who took the photo above at the Saint Joseph County Public Library on February 26. As they say, please Like us on Facebook! And visit one of our Tuesday evening meetings to become just as encouraged as I have been.