By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Local Toastmasters are looking to introduce the community to the benefits of public speaking next week. The club, entering its second year in Morinville, will be holding an open house at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre Oct. 23 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Toastmaster Liz Von Kanel said the local club had 10 members but are presently down to six due to some members moving out of the community. “We would like to have 20 members so that we can charter,” she said. “An ideal [Toastmasters] club should have at least 20 members. With all the people living in Morinville, 20 people free on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month is not a lot to ask. When we do get our group growing, we will probably meet three times a month, but that will be determined by the members.”
Von Kanel said the Toastmasters program is an exceptional one where people learn to speak and think. “Toastmaster’s is the best and least expensive personal improvement class you can go to,” she said. “Anyone who begins and sticks with it for any length of time ends up a better speaker.”
Her own experience with the organization over the past five years has included one club in St. Albert, two advanced-level clubs in Edmonton, and more recently her experience launching the Morinville club. Through it all, she has improved as a speaker and a leader.
“I have become confident, a better negotiator, gained trust, sharpened my speaking and leadership skills,” she said. “Toastmasters changed my life.”
The organization began in 1924 and has changed over the years from its reputations of being a group to help shy people become better speakers. While helping people become effective communicators remains at the core of the organization, Toastmasters has expanded to help people become not only better speakers but also better leaders. Members of the organization come from all walks of life and membership is open to those 18 and older.
“Five years ago when I became a Toastmaster, I went to a Toastmaster meeting out of curiosity to see what it was about. I never expected the satisfaction I get today of being a Toastmaster,” Von Kanel said. “It is a great organization to get the confidence to become the speaker and leader you want to be. Even experienced speakers can benefit from our proven training program.”
Von Kanel said through the group people learn to relax, plan and present a speech. Additionally, speeches are evaluated by one of the club’s evaluators, something Von Kanel believes carries a twofold benefit: helping the speechmaker improve their technique and helping the evaluator to hone their listening skills. Von Kanel said people need not fear the evaluations as the intent is not to be judgemental. “Whether you have 10 days to prepare or 10 seconds, you learn to listen effectively, think on your feet and speak confidently in a wide range of situations,” she said. “Best of all, you will practice in a friendly, supportive environment with people who are there for the same reasons you are – to become better communicators and leaders.”
Von Kanel and the other members of the Morinville Toastmasters Club are hoping residents will come out to their open house and see what a safe and supportive environment the group offers. Membership in the local club is $100 per year and includes two meetings per month. Additionally, members are able to attend a provincial gathering of Toastmasters twice each year. The next convention is set for Nov. 2 to 4 at the Radisson Hotel in Edmonton. Von Kanel said there is a cost to attend the conventions but the money is well spent as the gatherings are a great way to meet other Toastmasters and to hear speech contests.
Those interested in learning more about Toastmasters are invited to attend the open house at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre Oct. 23 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.