Fear of public speaking ranks high on the list of things people fear most.
Speaking in front of a group of people – whether it be on the job or socially, being asked to make a toast, give a speech or a eulogy – can make some people tremble with dread.
If you have to or you want to be able to speak with panache, Toastmasters at the Lake might be just the place to achieve it.
On a recent Thursday evening, 13 people attended the one-hour meeting, which moved quickly: Organizers distributed a printed agenda for the evening was distributed, and everyone had a role.
All levels of members were present, from long-timer Barney Barnum of Mooresville to first-time attendee Brett Eckerman of Statesville.
“I’ve been in it 27 years, and I’m still looking to get better,” said Barnum. “I tell people, ‘when you listen to an audio of all the great speakers today, if you ask them, they’ll say ‘when you want to improve yourself, go to Toastmasters.’ ”
The mission of a Toastmasters club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment where every member has the chance to develop oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.
Toastmasters at the Lake is a club within Toastmasters International, a nonprofit organization celebrating its 90th anniversary, said Barnum, who is a district governor of Toastmasters International. The clubs “all have a different feel to them, and you can pick the one that fits you,” Barnum said. “Right here, literally, you can go to about four or five groups in the area.”
Barnum was first a member of a Concord club, called the Goldmine, one of the oldest Toastmasters clubs in the country.
The group provided a genial and supportive environment for those who attended. “What happens when it hits red?” Eckermann, the first-timer, asked Fred Bunyan, who was the timer for the evening and sat in front of a wooden box with three colored light bulbs – red, yellow and green) on top.
“There’s a big hook that appears, and you yank ‘em off the stage,” incoming president Jan Pizzuto replied, getting a big laugh from the group.
“When it hits red, you have 30 seconds to wrap up,” Pizzuto explained. “Then we vote on best speaker so you’re disqualified if you go went over.
Barnum, the speech evaluator, said his job “is to lift everyone’s spirits. I must make one point to raise his spirit. I remember hearing an evaluator say once, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’ That pretty much sums it up how we help people become better speakers.”
Suzanne Ruff is a freelance writer for the Mooresville News. Have a story idea for Suzanne? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The cost of joining Toastmasters at the Lake is $150 per year, along with a one-time, $20 fee to join Toastmasters International, which allows you to attend any Toastmaster meeting around the world. The membership fee pays for the room where the meeting is held, award ribbons, ballots, materials and books. Also included is a subscription to Toastmaster magazine. For more information, go to http://tmatthelake.toastmastersclubs.org/ or www.toastmasters.org