A relatively new club, Brown County Toastmasters has continued to grow providing leadership training and opportunities for members to improve their public speaking skills.
The club typically meets the second Wednesday morning of the month at the Brown County Educational Service Center. Back in March the club tried an evening meeting to see what interest there might be in having a second club meeting. A number of people came and said they were interested in joining if an evening meeting was started. At the May meeting the club voted to start an evening meeting in June.
Darrin Schneider is the current president of the club and heard from members that there was a need.
“I believe the real reason behind this addition was to provide greater access to the club for those who work outside of our community and may not have the ability to attend an 8 a.m. meeting due to work schedules,” said Schneider. “This should allow us a natural growth in membership and, as our first evening meeting proved, there is a desire and a demand for this time slot.”
Toastmasters is an international organization that schools people on leadership and public speaking skills. The organization plans public speaking contests and activities throughout the year. Those activities are optional for local club members.
Generally the local club has three to four speakers at every meeting, each is generally at a different skill level. Most start in the club with one goal in mind, to become a better speaker, like Emily Heffner, who joined recently.
“I hope to learn how to speak better in public,” said Heffner. Heffner gave what is known as an Ice Breaker speech at the June 11 meeting. This is generally the first speech given at Toastmasters.
After this a general progression is made going through a manual which plots the course for improvement. Jerry Sanders is retired and came to the meetings because he had time on his hands and was curious what it was all about.
“I am just amazed at every speech that I hear while I am here,” said Sanders. “New knowledge … being retired that’s mostly what I get out of Toastmasters.”
Others agree that listening to the speeches may be the best part. Cindy Call has been in education for 30 years and works at the educational service center.
“I do enjoy the listening part as well. I’ve learned that I am not the only one that is a little scared,” Call said of speaking. “I used to break out (skin rash) and I had to wear a turtle neck (nerves). Now this is the third month I have not had to wear one.”
Even experienced attorneys like Christine Tailer find the interaction at the club meetings fascinating.
“I am relatively new to Brown County, we bought our farm in 2003 and I was looking for doors to walk through and I walked through this door,” said Tailer. “I was so amazed not only that it helps me with my speech and my ability to communicate, but I have listened to everybody here, it’s just a real treasure. What I learn listening to other people is what keeps me coming back.”
Many employers view this type of activity as personal improvement.
Mande Payton works at home for Hewlett-Packard and gives presentations to clients and peers.
“This helps me get more comfortable in groups of professionals. In rooms of people that I don’t know that well to learn how to speak to them so that I can feel more comfortable and come across without many ‘umms’ that I keep throwing in,” said Payton.
Retired Brown County Juvenile Court Judge Ron Dvorachek has spoken and performed in front of many groups, but he finds time to participate.
“I don’t speak as impromptu as I should. When I speak impromptu I have to many ‘ahhs’, ” said Dvorachek.
The schooling starts right away and speakers can jump in whenever they feel comfortable. Julie Steddom, an attorney, found that out right away.
“One thing that I really appreciated was, the very first night that I came to the group, I just jumped in and did a speech because we were lacking that day,” said Steddom. “I really received encouragement from everybody there to just jump in and do things even when I don’t feel comfortable.”
The first official evening meeting of the club will be 7 p.m., June 25, at the Brown County Educational Service Center’s new office beside Southern Hills Career Center. This is in Georgetown off the Hamer Road/U.S. 68 intersection.
Visitors are always welcome to come and see what Toastmasters is all about. Members pay annual dues which are less than $100 which include helpful study guides and self help magazines.
“There’s no pressure to join. You join at your own volition,” said Schneider. “But if you think Toastmasters can help you, then by all means come to a meeting and find out.”
Contact Schneider by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.