Gaining confidence and skills from Toastmasters
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.