Owahgena Toastmasters met on Aug. 14 at the Lincklaen House for a special meeting to decide our way forward going into the next 30 years of our existence.
OT is a member organization of Toastmasters International (TI), a non-profit organization dating back to 1924 dedicated to improving the communication skills of its membership, most specifically of the oratory kind.
At a typical meeting, members converse on a variety of topics including current affairs and personal stories. At our last meeting, the controversial issue of hydrofracking was raised with differing opinions being expressed in a safe and respectful atmosphere.
But at this meeting, we also came prepared to offer short presentations on how TI has influenced our lives and how we think we could garner more members. One thing was certain after hearing from the membership: We all felt that we have gained confidence in both our spoken and written communications and expressed our beliefs that many in our community stand to gain by joining us. And we pondered the dilemma that those most in need of gaining proficiency in speaking in front of an audience often are the ones too scared off by the thought of it.
What we offer at our meetings is a safe and comfortable atmosphere that encourages but doesn’t demand our members to present, though it is never long before new members are anxious to participate in our Table Topics session — a short, one- to two-minute portion where members speak off the cuff about a topic raised by the Table Topic Master. It’s fun and you never know what to expect.
I’ve always felt that it helps students test better because it forces them to quickly compose a response including an introduction, body and conclusion, much the way you do in a written essay. While students cannot become full members, our particular Toastmasters group welcomes high school students and allows them to participate fully at the meetings.