Gain­ing con­fi­dence and skills from Toast­mas­ters

Moose Jaw - - News -

Lynn Hal­stead made a con­fi­dent pitch to new peo­ple to join Toast­mas­ters. At a pub­lic in­for­ma­tion meeting at the Moose Jaw Pub­lic Li­brary, Hal­stead made com­pelling points about the or­ga­ni­za­tion and what it did for her. Still, hear­ing her speak was a solid ar­gu­ment on its own.

By her own ad­mis­sion, Hal­stead is not a com­fort­able pub­lic speaker, but that doesn’t mean she can’t con­fi­dently de­liver a speech in pub­lic.

“To stand up in front of a group has al­ways pet­ri­fied me,” Hal­stead told the group. “I was hav­ing panic at­tacks com­ing tonight, even though I have been at Toast­mas­ter for three years. It’s the un­known, so I was try­ing to wrap my head around: How the room was go­ing to be set up? How many peo­ple are go­ing to be here? What kind of ques­tions are they go­ing to ask me? -- to calm my­self.”

Hal­stead is far from alone. A quar­ter of all peo­ple claim pub­lic speak­ing as a fear and most peo­ple don’t ac­tively en­joy it. Hal­stead said she wanted to be able to stand in front of a crowd and de­liver a speech “in­stead of feel­ing like swal­low­ing ra­zor blades, hands sweaty and just feel­ing ner­vous and wor­ried.” “Toast­mas­ters has helped me pro­fes- sion­ally and in my per­sonal life to be able to stand up and talk and re­ally stretch my­self to be­come more un­com­fort­able -- but in a good way,” she said. “My third speech was in front of 59 peo­ple, mic’d up, on a stage. I was pet­ri­fied. My big­gest crowd be­fore that was eight.

“Toast­mas­ters gives you con­fi­dence, it gives you lead­er­ship skills.” Be­yond mak­ing speeches, Hal­stead said Toast­mas­ters will teach you to think more quickly on your feet and teaches you how to run a meeting.

“I should have been in Toast­mas­ters 10 years ago when I was the pres­i­dent of The Den­tur­ist So­ci­ety of Saskatchewan, tak­ing to my col­leagues -- which were 100 -- running a busi­ness meeting,” Hal­stead re­called. “I had no idea how to run a busi­ness meeting. They were talk­ing over top of me. Thank good­ness my coun­cil was strong enough, that they said that was out of or­der. I was able to learn on the fly, but it would have been nice to have had some of th­ese skills to then bring for­ward.”

While some join Toast­mas­ters to im­prove their pro­fes­sional skills, Hal­stead said the rea­sons peo­ple join are var­ied. “Toast­mas­ters gives you tools that you can use in ev­ery-day life,” she said. There are two lo­cal Toast­mas­ter clubs: a Tues­day night club and a Wed­nes­day night club. Both meet for 90 min­utes and be­gin at 7 p.m. at Saskatchewan Polytech­nic. A new Toast­mas­ters group is form­ing to hold meet­ings at 7 p.m. on Mon­day in Caron­port.

There are also Toast­mas­ters clubs for kids called gavel clubs for 10-18-year olds.

“Some kids are shy and if they don’t want to join an ac­tual club, you can join what is called ‘youth lead­er­ship,’” Hal­stead said. “At Vanier they’re hav­ing the first meeting where young adults will do the same thing as the adults do, but it’s an eight-week pro­gram. It’s quick, but they do the speeches; they’re timed. They do the eval­u­a­tions. It’s pretty amaz­ing to watch some of the kids and then eight weeks later your mind is blown: ‘wow, look at the con­fi­dence!’ They can stand up and say a speech in­stead of stand­ing be­hind a lectern be­ing so quiet you can’t even hear them. To see them ma­ture and grow in such a short amount of time is pretty amaz­ing.”

In ad­di­tion to mak­ing speeches at Toast­mas­ters, mem­bers also eval­u­ate the speeches of their peers. Toast­mas­ters also of­fers the path­ways ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram to help mem­bers in their pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment. They also have speech com­pe­ti­tions in cat­e­gories such as: hu­mor­ous, eval­u­a­tion, tall tales, ta­ble top­ics and in­ter­na­tional speech con­tests.

Hal­stead stressed that mem­bers can go at their own pace and get what they want out of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Hal­stead will chair the Toast­mas­ters re­gional spring con­fer­ence in Moose Jaw next May. The con­fer­ence will draw ap­prox­i­mately 150 Toast­mas­ters from across south­ern Saskatchewan and south­ern Al­berta.

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