Tahoe-Truckee Toastmasters groups help locals learn to express themselves
Special to the Sun
Three local groups
Truckee: Truckee Talker Toastmasters
When: Tuesday at noon at the Truckee Donner Public Utility District Building.
Truckee: Jibboom Street Toastmasters:
When: Wednesdays at 7:30 a.m. at the Truckee Airport.
Tahoe City: Tahoe Blue Toastmasters.
When: Friday at 7:15 a.m. at the Tahoe City Arts Center.
Note: New members are always welcome and encouraged at Toastmasters meetings.
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — Perhaps you’ve heard of Toastmasters as a place where people torture themselves by nervously standing in front of a crowd and giving speeches, learning how to be comfortable the next time they have to give a speech.
That’s part of it, and there is certainly a demand for such a service, since it is said that more than two-thirds of the population suffers from a fear of public speaking.
But if you stop by a Toastmasters meeting in Tahoe City or Truckee, you will discover the focus of the organization is really on “improving your leadership and confidence skills so you will be able to express yourselves more effectively,” says Carman Carr, who’s active in both Truckee groups.
The goal for Toastmasters members is to spend an hour a week not only learning how to give speeches, but how to communicate.
WHAT IS TOASTMASTERS?
Toastmaster International has more than 300,000 members in more than 14,000 clubs in 126 countries.
The organization’s primary focus is on communication and leadership development. Members pay $36 every sixth months, plus a $20 initiation fee.
Truckee has two groups, The Truckee Talker Toastmasters, and the Jibboom Street Toastmasters. Tahoe City has the Tahoe Blue Toastmasters.
“Do you need to convince the general public to buy your product? Or perhaps lead or mentor the junior staff? Toastmasters can offer you an opportunity to practice and refine your speaking skills so that your message is cogent, articulate and convincing,” says Tahoe City Toastmaster member Nancy Haber.
Toastmaster meetings are conducted in a semi-formal manner with a similar agenda every week. Meetings last an hour, and every action on the agenda begins and ends right on time.
A set of stoplights is visible to speakers to make sure they stop when they are supposed to stop.
Tahoe City member Mike Willette said he didn’t join the club to learn how to speak, but how to shut up.
Anyone who has listened to a speaker drone on much too long at a meeting understands why Toastmasters places a high value on speakers learning brevity.
One of the most interesting parts of a Toastmaster meeting is what is known as Table Topics. A leader provides a topic, then immediately afterward, participants take turns standing up and giving an off-the-cuff, two-minute speech about the topic.
While a detailed prepared speech is not something most of us do every day, everyone who attends a business mixer or is interested in networking with people at a conference, understands the importance of being able to talk coherently about something that comes up in conversation.
Speakers are given rounds of applause. At the end of the meeting, an evaluator gives positive suggestions, talks about body language and then gives a few ideas for things to add or change.
Short, written positive suggestions are passed to the speaker from other members after each speech.
During the meeting, one of the Toastmasters keeps track of how many “Ahhs” or other distracting pauses are made during the speeches.
The hope is that speakers will learn to keep those pause phrases like “Ummm,” “Ahhh,” and “You know” to a minimum.
GIVING BACK TO YOUTH
Tahoe Blue Toastmasters President Slater Cahill has spearheaded an effort to help North Tahoe High School students through the Youth and Leadership program.
Once a week, students meet and give speeches and play with table topics and round robin discussions.
Toastmasters has been helping students with their resumés and will give those students who will be speaking at graduation a chance to try out their speeches in front of the Toastmasters evaluation team.
Cahill said when he came to his first Toastmasters meeting he was, “sweating bullets when I got called on to talk for two minutes off the cuff,” but now he loves the meetings and knows that they have made a world of difference in his ability to communicate.
“The only way to get over the fear is to keep doing it,” said Cahill.
Tim Hauserman, a nearly lifelong resident of Tahoe City, is a freelance author and cross-country ski instructor. He may be reached at email@example.com.