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Speaking Success Due to Toastmasters
By: Andrea F., Grade 12, Garden Valley Collegiate, Winkler, MB

You are sitting in your chair, your hands are shaking and your palms are sweaty. Your stomach's telling you that you're going to be sick, and the only place you want to be is at home in your bed. But you aren't; you are sitting in your chair at a Toastmasters meeting and you are you're the next speaker up! You wish you could sink through the floor. But this is reality, not a movie.

Even though everybody says, "I can't do that!", you really can. It benefits you, as well as your school, and the community around you. Someday you'll be asked to chair a meeting or prepare something for a meeting, and you won't have a clue how to do it. By having more experience, you learn how to control your nerves, which enables you to speak better. Since you will be more relaxed, you'll have the ability to speak to the audience, as though you were speaking to a bunch of your friends.

Toastmasters is helping many students and adults improve their speaking skills. In general, Toastmasters is a group or club that comes together once a week to practice many types of speaking skills. Toastmasters is a very good program for those who do not like speaking to an audience or a group of people, as well as for those who are shy and very quiet. It helps to build up confidence and the members soon find public speaking bearable and, for some, even enjoyable.

There are four positions that members can be voted in for at Toastmasters. The Chair runs the meeting. The Chair position teaches you how to run a meeting. The vice-president takes over as chair when the chairperson is not in attendance. The Secretary takes minutes of the meetings and presents them at the beginning of each meeting. The Sergeant at Arms takes care of the physical duties, including answering the door, preparing the table and chairs set-up, as well as the clean-up afterwards.

The Toastmasters' agenda consists of the Toast, Word of the Day, Humour, Speeches, Table Topics, and the Pandora's Box. The Toast teaches you how to prepare and present a toast. The Word of the Day is there as an encouragement to cancel out grunts. The purpose of Humour is to change the mood a bit, activating a comfortable atmosphere and it changes the mood a bit. The purpose of a Speech is to develop and improve speaking skills. Table Topics encourage members to think and speak on the spot without pre-planning. Pandora's Box is an activity where everyone has a chance to participate in storytelling. It's kind of on the spot as well. At GVC, Toastmasters runs every Thursday, from 12:40 until approximately 1:25. Anyone is welcome. There are also adult sessions held outside of school for the public.

Now you've gone through the whole agenda, you're also feeling pretty good. You're also wondering, "why did I think it would be so hard? This wasn't so bad after all." Next time you'll find it so much easier. The first time is like breaking the ice. The second time you just have to keep going.

As a participant of the club, I have been encouraged so much. I used to dislike audiences, and I always got incredibly nervous. No one is assigned duties at Toastmasters; the members all volunteer. So it's totally up to you what you do. It's better to involve yourself in more because it will help you out a lot more in the end.

Toastmasters is designed for those who want to improve their skills, and want to be there. No one is forced to do anything, it is all self- willed.

I have overcome so much of my nervousness, and I've acquired a lot more self confidence with the experience that I have had. When you hear others speak you become more aware of types of speaking, as well as different ideas and topics that you might want to use. You also get to know more people, as well as their ideas and more about the community around you. I would recommend Toastmasters to everyone, unless you are a great public speaker and you have 100 percent self-confidence. One way or the other, everyone can benefit from it.

If Toastmasters is not available in your school, or community, you could easily start your own club. Just contact a supervisor from another club nearby, and ask if he/she could help you get started. You'll need a member from the adult club to teach, and supervise. Go for it.

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