Woodland Communicators to host first Toastmasters Club Open House

The Woodland Communicators Toastmasters Club hopes to get people talking when they host their first Open House on Tuesday, March 14.

The club is looking to rebound after a difficult two years due to COVID. Brenda Georget, the club’s vice-president of membership, said many people don’t know about the club or what it does. They’re hoping the Open House can change that.

“You always have people leaving and then new people coming so we have to keep sharing that with the public,” Georget explained. “I have a plate holder that says toastmasters on it, and somebody comes to me and says, ‘what’s toastmasters?’ (The name) really doesn’t fit what it is today, but it fit for what it was when it was created. It was created to do toasts.”

Toastmasters began in 1905 when an Illinois education director named Ralph Smedley noticed a need for public-speaking instruction. He organized the first unofficial Toastmasters meeting on March 24 of that year, but the first club wasn’t formed until 1922.

By the 1930s, Toastmaster Clubs were popping up outside the United States, with the first Canadian Club formed in Victoria, B.C. in 1935.

At the time, the clubs focused primarily on toasts, usually delivered at weddings. However, they’ve since branched out to all forms of public speaking, helping prepare people to give lectures and business presentations, or speak in public forums.

When Georget joined toastmasters in 2010, she wasn’t thinking about giving speeches at weddings. Instead, she was training to become a chartered professional accountant, and wanted help giving public presentations.

At first she was nervous and unsure about joining the club, but said that’s common for new members who are stepping outside their comfort zones in a major way.

“People, honest to God, it’s their worst fear,” she said. “They would rather not speak. They would rather die. They’re not scared of death. They’re scared of speaking in public, and I think that’s what deters a lot of people from even coming.”

Georget said senior club members will be on hand to help evaluate member speeches. The members then take or leave whatever feedback they receive.

Prior to COVID, the club drew members from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from local entrepreneurs who wanted to create commercials to promote their businesses, to residents who wanted to run for public office, but struggled speaking in front of audiences.

Georget said they try to create a relaxed environment where people feel comfortable learning and improving.

COVID was a major setback for the organization. They were unable to host in-person meetings, and lost members when they moved to Zoom meetings online. To boost numbers and give speakers a larger audience, they held joint meetings with the La Ronge Toastmasters Club.

When the province lifted the COVID restrictions, Woodland Communicators kept their hybrid model, where attendees could meet in person or join over Zoom.

Georget said they were determined to keep going, even during the toughest days of the COVID outbreak.

“We said, ‘we can’t shut down. We just can’t because if we do it’s not going to come back,’” she remembered. “We said, ‘we have to do something.’”

The Woodland Communicators Toastmasters Club will host their Open House in Room F212 of the Technical Building on the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Campus in Prince Albert. The event begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14.

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