The Woodland Communicators Toastmasters Club celebrated their ninth Anniversary on Tuesday night with an Open House at the Saskatchewan Polytech Prince Albert Campus.
The theme of the evening was Ready, Set, Go. The snowy conditions caused a bit of a decline in attendance, Brenda Georget Vice President of Membership, but they were still happy to see residents come out and show their support.
“We were expecting more,” Georget said. “We did have maybe 15 people, something like that, which is pretty good. We were expecting 20, but (with) the weather, I knew right away when you get four inches of snow people from out of town even just a couple of miles out of town wouldn’t want to come. Even in the city they wouldn’t come.”
The event included a mixture of new members, veteran members, and non-members, who plan to attend future events physically and virtually. The schedule for the evening included opening remarks, virtual Icebreaker speaker Michelle Merriman, Table Topics Session, a break, virtual guest speaker Carol Harris, an Awards Session, Question and Answer period and closing remarks.
The Toastmaster who held the gavel and led the meeting for the evening was Crytal Grovestine. Georget was in charge of Table Topics for the evening’s meeting. The Table Topics have the person in charge select a topic and then people can go from there.
“It’s just freestyling for two minutes and you give a very concise two minute (speech), opening then body then close. Basically (you) start off saying what you want to say and then wrap it up kind of thing,” Georget said.
Table Topics is one of several exercises Toastmaster members use to hone their public speaking skills. Georget said it has many everyday uses for real life situations.
“I have been in my supervisor’s office, and I am able to pause, not panic, and formulate an answer, or obviously say ‘let me find out’,” she said. “But, you are able to formulate a response.”
Georget said that people find the exercise very beneficial despite, although many are nervous to try it.
“They are frightened of it at first,” she explained. “People find that they don’t like it because it’s kind of scary at first…. We practice every week and at every meeting there is a Table Topics.”
Toastmaster meetings run every Tuesday at 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at Sask Polytech, but not always in the same room.
“Some people join just specifically to learn that or practice that impromptu speaking,” she said. “Others join for leadership. I am more laser focused on leadership type stuff because that’s just my line. It’s not so much the communication side, but I have improved a lot since I started.”
People can join for one thing and pick up all of the other benefits like soft skills such as time management. Georget explained that they are very concise and begin at 7 p.m, and conclude at 8:30 p.m.
“When I go to meetings and they drag this on, it’s only supposed to be two hours and now we are into the fourth hour, there is time management issues here,” she said.
“We learn those types of things and we learn listening skills. Usually we would have a grammarian who would provide a word of the day and people would use the word of the day within their responses, and that person would listen for ‘ums’ and ‘ahs,’” she explained.
Georget said that those are just filler words and she has noticed a lot of improvement over her time in Toastmasters.
People associate the organization with public speaking but there are those soft skills.
“People think automatically public speaking ‘oh my God’, that’s the number one fear for everybody. It’s not even death, death is number two,” Georget said.
There was one major unexpected challenge at Tuesday’s open house. New member Michelle Merriman made her Icebreaker speech over Zoom, but was interrupted when hackers took over the Zoom feed and Merriman kept herself in check.
“You are going to have technical issues so we practice that,” Georget said. “It’s not that we made it happen, but it happens. It doesn’t matter where you go, you will have technical issues with your microphone or your speakers or something and you have to manage through that and that’s basically what she did, she just held.”
Eventually, the hackers were muted and kicked out of the Zoom and things returned to normal.
“That has never happened, that’s the first time ever,” Georget said.
Georget said it was remarkable how Merriman was able to keep her composure through the chaos.
“I have been involved for 13 years and I like supporting people and encouraging people and stuff like that,” she said.
John Thompson from Prince Albert has been a member of Toastmasters for 38 years and across over 10 clubs. He acted as speaking evaluator for Harrison and Merriman. He has been mostly active in Prince Albert but also in three clubs in Saskatoon.
Thompson said he joined after attending a banquet 38 years ago that had the head table introduced three times.
“The one thing that Toastmasters is known for is they know how to handle protocol around formal meetings, so that was one reason,” he explained. “The other reason I was always interested in public speaking but I didn’t really want to take Dale Carnegie at a horrendous cost, so Toastmasters certainly appealed.”
Thompson said Toastmasters gives you a chance to learn from a variety of people, and there is always something new to improve on.
“One of the keys to Toastmasters is evaluation, so it’s constant improvement,” he explained. “You can always learn something and how to speak better, how to lead better. Plus, I am a retired forester and people here are not foresters and from other walks of life and interests, so being a curious person I really want to learn from other people, where they come from, what their interests are and what makes them tick.”
In addition to learning from other people, Thomson likes that he can help teach people too.
“It’s a two-way street,” he said.
Thompson would recommend Toastmasters to anyone no matter what their age. As long as they are 18, he’s confident they would get something out of it.
“You have got to be 18. You can’t have teenagers telling adults what to do,” he said.
“It’s for everybody, it’s very economical, you get lots of recognition from the organization and from the club. You are always made welcome and once you join Toastmasters you can go to 144 different countries in the world, providing they speak English, because the organization has several languages that it is fluent in and you will be made welcome.”
Thompson explained that while on vacation, he attended a meeting of Club number 5 in San Diego.
Throughout the evening there was door prizes drawn for those in attendance and virtual attendees. There was also a cake served to celebrate the anniversary.