Castlegar’s Toastmasters club, the Sentinel Speakers, has recently had a resurgence and are enthusiastically seeking new members.
The club has kept under the radar for a couple years but now they are looking to keep at least 20 active members for charter status.
Heather Love, one of the club’s executives, said being a Toastmaster isn’t just about learning how to feel comfortable giving a speech.
“Toastmasters in general is an organization that promotes communication and leadership for members,” she said. “It really is both.”
Although some people do join to practise giving speeches, Love said reasons for joining range from people seeking job promotions to people new to the community looking to meet others.
“It really does work with a full walk of life of people,” she said. “It’s not just the young professional that’s trying to work up the ladder.”
Some skills club members gain include interpretive reading and storytelling.
“Eventually you’re going to run the meeting,” Love explained, “so there’s a lot of learning how to time things, how to run an agenda.”
Basically, if you have a passion for something, Toastmasters will help you gain the skills and confidence to execute yourself properly, she said.
Many Toastmasters clubs get involved with the community. In Osoyoos, for example, the club helps with the annual parade and members serve as judges for speech contests for youth. In Nelson, the club ran a leadership program for 10 weeks.
Some people come to the club knowing what they want to speak about, but some members have no idea. Love said it’s not a problem — they teach you how to find topics of interest.
After a member completes 10 speeches, they earn “confident communicator” status.
“That’s the recognition that they’ve achieved that first level,” Love said.
There are 14 different subject areas that members can study after they achieve the first level, which include speaking for media, speeches for management, persuasive speaking and discussion leader, all of which can earn bronze, silver and gold status.
“There’s something for everybody,” Love said. “Every time someone does two of those, they’ve almost completed the bronze.”
Toastmasters can compete in competitions as well — last year’s world champion was Jamie MacDonald from Surrey with his speech, “The Power of Spit.” Competitions start at the local level between Castlegar, Nelson, Trail and Nakusp.
Love said she first became involved in the club in the mid-1980s while going to school.
“In university I had to give a lot of oral presentations and I was scared to death,” she said.
After, she moved around quite a bit and found being in the club was a good way to meet people.
“If I leave it, I get rusty,” she said. “I could start to feel the ums and uhs and all these verbal stammers popping into my speech and I get nervous … it’s nice to know you did your best job because you weren’t dry-mouthed and shaking in your booties.”
Club dues are $100 for the year, or you can pay $50 twice a year.
The club meets at the Fireside Inn on the first and third Wednesday of each month. For more information, call president Mark Sirges at 250-368-6666.