Because Communications Isn't Optional

    Speaking in public doesn't have to be a death sentence. Whether you're speaking to the board of directors, your customers, your co-workers or your kids, Toastmasters can help you do it better. Members of Toastmasters International learn and practice in a friendly, comfortable environment with people who are there for the same reason you are-to become better communicators.
    Around the world more than three million men and women of varied ages and occupations have benefited from Toastmasters training. Toastmasters has grown over the years since Ralph C. Smedley founded the organization on October 22, 1924, at the YMCA in Santa Ana, California, United States. In 2008, there are more than 226,000 members and over 11,500 clubs located across the United States and in 92 other countries.
    Toastmasters members belong to local clubs, which generally have between six and 40 members, with 20 members being a typical size. Membership is open to all people ages 18 and above wishing to improve their communications skills.  Members practice various skills useful in public speaking, including giving speeches, speaking extemporaneously, listening, and providing each other with feedback.
    If people know about Toastmasters, they know it's about personal development, which it is. However, what most people don't know is that Toastmasters make great friends, and that is because of what goes on in and after the meetings. For example, speakers often include significant personal details in their speeches, though it is not required. And, people interested in personal development tend to have great stories, many of which deserve further clarification. For the Hilton Head Fast Trackers, this leads to post-meeting gatherings at Star Bucks (Pineland Station around 9 AM), which often leads to deeper, more meaningful, and long-lasting friendships. Oh, and then there's the business networking that goes on at Toastmasters. You just never know who you might meet at a meeting. What is particularly fun about our local club is that Toastmasters from all over the world visit our meetings when they are vacationing here on the island, and that right there is interesting.
    The Toastmasters Competent Communicator and Competent Leadership Manuals are the heart of the TI educational program. When giving a speech at a Toastmasters meeting, members are expected to speak within a prescribed time limit. For most basic manual speeches, this limit is 5 to 7 minutes. For advanced program speeches, the limit can vary, with the maximum usually at 10 minutes. At the conclusion of the speeches, other members will evaluate the speeches. The intent is to provide a positive experience for the speaker, encouraging him or her to build on the skills already learned and to improve other speaking and listening skills.
    After completing ten Competent Communicator manual speeches, the Toastmaster then can pursue any of the 15 advanced manuals, each consisting of five projects. These include projects on sales presentations, speaking to inform, speeches by management, interpretative reading, speaking on television, entertaining dinner speaking, communicating with news media, interpersonal communication, and so on. Toastmasters also teaches leadership skills. This is motivated in part by the fact that TI is staffed completely by volunteers (except for a staff of about 60 paid personnel at the World Headquarters). Even the board of directors is composed of volunteers.
    Because competition allows members to practice communication skills under demanding conditions, Toastmasters Clubs conduct two main contests per year, inspirational speaking in the spring, and humorous speaking in the fall. And by the way, if you happen to be in the mood for some free entertainment, any Toastmasters Speech Contest is a great event to attend.
    The fear of public speaking is reported to be the number one fear of American adults. This fear can take a toll on peoples' effectiveness in the workplace and in other settings as it stops them from fully expressing their thoughts and ideas in front of others. Thankfully, there is one place where people from all walks of life can find mutual support and sympathetic encouragement in a nurturing environment. In spite of how polished some members may appear, realize that everyone starts out on the same shaky ground, with an abundance of ums and ahs. No need to fret, however, it's easy to overcome a bad habit if you're in a good group.

Local clubs in Beaufort County - New Members Welcome
Hilton Head Island's Fast Tracker's club meets every Friday morning for an hour at 7:45 AM at the Palmetto Electric community room on Matthews Drive. This club is well established and has been around for more than 20 years. For more information, call Jodie Randisi at 681-9351.
The Bluffton Speech Achievers, a relatively new club established in 2004, meets on Thursdays at 6:30 PM at the Bluffton Library. This club started with 6 members and has grown to 17. For more information call Dave Robbins at 705-9997.
The Beaufort Club meets the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 5:15 PM in the conference room at the Lowcountry Medical Center, 300 Midtown Drive in Beaufort. For more information call 252-9966.

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