University City

Toastmasters teaches real-life speech skills

Darnell Badger is young man full of confidence and energy.

He also is an excellent public speaker; but that was not always the case.

Badger said he used to feel like a wallflower in terms of his comfort with public speaking.

Many people list public speaking as something they fear most in life. Some even feel physically ill when the need to speak publicly arises.

Badger credits joining Toastmasters International with overcoming his fear of public speaking.

“I recently spoke at a wedding, and that was a big accomplishment,” he said. He said he believes the ability to communicate well is key in every aspect of life.

Since joining the University City Toastmasters club in 2012, Badger has excelled personally and professionally. He is a sales manager with Wells Fargo Advisors Solutions, and his job requires him to coach and motivate a staff of 28.

“Toastmasters International helped me become more fulfilled, because I’m doing what I love,” said Badger, who also is the University City club president.

The club meets at the University City YMCA from 6:45-8 p.m. Mondays.

“We currently have about 50 members, but I’d like to have 100 club members,” Badger said.

Toastmasters International was founded in 1924 by Ralph Smedley. The first meeting was held in the basement of a YMCA in Santa Ana, Calif. Smedley’s goal was to train people in public speaking and presiding over meetings. The format was similar to a social club.

According to Toastmasters International’s website, the organization has more than 313,000 members in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. The organization had its international conference recently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Members still practice speaking skills in a supportive and informal atmosphere. Their mission is “to provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence,” according to the website.

The Toastmasters International site lists four key values of the organization: integrity, respect, service and excellence.

The University City Toastmasters club was chartered in 2002 and has been meeting at the YMCA since 2005.

“Moving to the YMCA has been great for us and the YMCA,” said Rick Dameron, district sponsorship chairman for Toastmasters International. “We have partnered with them in the past to run youth programs, getting kids more comfortable speaking in a group setting.”

The University City club is exploring more ways to help young people with communication and leadership skills, Badger said.

One of Dameron’s goals is to find more sponsorships for the district, which is the state of North Carolina.

Meetings have a set structure, with elected officers. When members make presentations, other members serve as evaluators. A member is selected to serve as a grammarian.

Members refer to a document called a Competent Communication Manual, a self-paced way for members to handle 10 different speech projects.

Toastmasters International hosts competitions between various divisions and districts, and the group holds state conferences twice a year.

The University City club is very diverse. People from a wide variety of professions, ethnicities and ages participate weekly.

Steve Medlin, a lawyer who joined Toastmasters International in 1977, previously was a member of the Gold Mine Toastmasters in Concord. He credits Toastmasters International with his success in his profession.

“I’d be hard-pressed to guess how much Toastmasters has helped me. Within three years after establishing my law practice, I took a case to the state Supreme Court and won,” said Medlin.

There are several Toastmasters clubs in University City, including Electrolux, Wells Fargo, TIAA-CREF and AREVA.

“People can hone their speaking and leadership skills in a non-pressure atmosphere,” said Badger.

“We encourage people … and they get confidence,” he said. “I’m no longer a wallflower.”