Toastmasters teaches effective communications, leadership skills
by Donna Jones Pelkie
Many people find public speaking difficult, if not downright scary, but it doesn’t have to be. The Argonne Toastmasters Club is a good resource for employees who want to build their public speaking confidence and skills.
The Argonne chapter of Toastmasters International meets every second and fourth Wednesday at noon in Building 201, Conference Room 190.
According to Mike Finder (FMS), club vice president of public relations, joining the club can be a good opportunity for career development. Becoming a more effective speaker through Toastmasters is a measurable goal that can be included in an annual review.
Finder said the club teaches members how to be better communicators not only through improved speaking skills, but also through learning to be a better listener. These skills help members become more effective leaders.
In a typical meeting, members give prepared speeches, and fellow members act as evaluators pointing out strengths and suggesting improvements. Finder said speakers don’t find the evaluation daunting. “People want to hear the criticism. The fact that you’re up there is a step further than most people go,” he said.
Finder’s favorite part of the meetings are brief impromptu presentations, known as Table Topics. A random theme or question is chosen, and volunteers speak on that topic for up to two minutes. “It helps you think on your feet, and allows participants to enjoy the camaraderie and humor of fellow members. This part of the meeting can be quite entertaining,” he said.
The Toastmasters program allows participants to progress at their own pace. “No one is required to speak at a meeting,” said Rebecca Yassan (FMS), club president. “Participants can just observe and listen. However, we encourage people not to wait but to just dive in.”
Yassan added this is a good club for non-native English speakers as it helps these members become more comfortable with their second language. She said about half of the Argonne chapter’s members are non-native English speakers.
Dues are paid every six months and include both local and national Toastmasters membership. There is also a one-time $20 new member fee. Dues will be prorated based on the date a person joins. “It averages out to about $3 per meeting,” Yassan said. “It’s cheaper than a movie or a latte.”
Anyone interested in to Toastmasters can contact Finder at 2-2920 or Yassan at ext. 2-0688, or see the club’s web page at http://128.toastmastersclubs.org/