Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ June 2016

Toastmasters:  A Way for Your Voice to Be Heard!

By Ellen Kalin, CC

I’m guessing that if I asked any random 100 people, “Do you enjoy speaking in public?” only a very few would answer in the affirmative.  Even fewer would be enthusiastic about it.  A year and a half ago, if you had asked me, “Would you rather jump out of a plane or speak in public?” I would have reached for the parachute.

This was becoming a problem because, as an artist who occasionally exhibits, I was sometimes asked to give an artist’s talk.  The prospect filled me with fear and anxiety.  What will I say?  How will I fill up the time?  Can I make it interesting?  Can I manage to not run and hide under a table?

While confiding my fears to my friend, Donna (for the umpteenth time), her son Ryan overheard me and said, “Why don’t you check out Toastmasters?”  He told me that he had gone to Toastmasters when he was living in New Mexico, and that it really helped him with his public speaking.  I immediately looked them up online, found a nearby club, and made Ryan accompany me to the first meeting.

When we got to Silver Spring Club 1314, we were greeted warmly and treated to a meeting that featured speakers of various skill levels.  All speeches were evaluated by a fellow member, and these evaluations could not have been more positive or encouraging.  After the meeting, the club president and I were chatting.

“Public speaking is my biggest fear,” I told him.  “Guess what?” he said.  “It was my biggest fear, too.  It was the biggest fear of everyone in this room.  You are in the right place!”

I paid my dues and my Competent Communication manual soon arrived in the mail.  The manual contains the 10 speech projects that need to be completed to achieve the first Toastmaster designation:  Competent Communicator (CC).

Competent Communication

Joining was one thing, but getting up and speaking was another matter entirely.  I attended several meetings, and was an excellent listener (i.e., didn’t speak).  But after hearing [NFCCA Board Member] Fiona Morrissey speak, I got inspired!  Her speaking style was informal, witty, and humorous, and I immediately knew that she would be an ideal person to help me get started.  I asked her to be my mentor.  Graciously, she accepted, and my actual work began.

The first project in the manual is the “Icebreaker Speech,” in which new speakers tell the club a little about themselves.  It is the first dip of the Toastmaster toe into the waters of prepared speeches.  I wrote the speech, practiced it at least a dozen times, and then went over it with Fiona.  And then, I gave my Icebreaker Speech to the group.  Although it was nerve-wracking, having practiced it so much made it a somewhat less terrible than I had feared.  And, each subsequent speech got a bit easier.

Each project in the Competent Communication manual addresses an aspect of public speaking, such as organizing speech content or using vocal variety.  For the project on using visual aids, I talked about my fear of doing artists’ talks, and did a mini-artist’s talk, using four of my paintings on easels behind me as my visual aids.

Last month, I finished my CC and am looking forward to continuing working on my public speaking in Toastmasters (as unbelievable as this sounds to my previous self)!

If you are interested in checking out Club 1314 ( http://silverspring.toast, meetings are in the Silver Spring United Methodist Church (formerly Marvin Memorial) in Four Corners; enter via the door to the right of the front door.  Meetings are on the first and third Wednesday of each month, 7:30–9:30 p.m.   ■

Toastmasters was founded in 1924 “to afford practice and training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings, and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members.”  Silver Spring Club 1314 was chartered in 1953 and is one of the oldest clubs in Toastmasters’ District 36.  One of 97 Toastmasters districts around the world, District 36 includes approximately 200 clubs with 4,000+ members, and encompasses Montgomery County and the northern portions of Washington, D.C., and Prince George’s County.

   © 2016 NFCCA  [Source:]