Asheville Toastmasters Club #436 will conduct their 2015 International Speech and Table Topics Contest at their March 5 meeting. For the International Speech, contestants present a five- to seven- minute speech on any subject they choose. All districts must conduct this contest. The Table Topics Contest measures impromptu speaking skills; all contestants are assigned the same topic.
Competition begins at the Club level, and winners advance to the Area, Division and District levels. The International Speech Competition has two additional levels—the Semifinal Round and the World Championship of Public Speaking. Last year two local members brought awards back from District Competition.
What types of people are drawn to Toastmasters? People in all professions can benefit from improving their public speaking skills. Jacob McDonald is an aspiring, young attorney who turned to Toastmasters during law school to become more prepared for the rigors of his profession. “I was seeking an environment specifically designed to become a more confident and effective speaker,” Jacob says. “I knew my career required it. Although I received some speaking practice in law school, I wanted more repetition and a way to hone my skills before entering the profession.”
Through support and feedback, Toastmasters offers a comfortable environment for improvement. “As an attorney, effective communication is essential, whether that’s with clients, other attorneys, or judges,” Jacob says. “Because Toastmasters is about overall interpersonal communication, and not just speech giving, it compliments almost every aspect of my profession.”
Just as pilots learn to fly through flight simulation, many members see Toastmasters as a safe simulation environment in which to hone their skills. “Speech giving and impromptu speaking aren’t always the most comfortable situations,” Jacob says. “Toastmasters provides a safe and supportive atmosphere, which encourages progress and rewards determination. It’s the place to make mistakes and learn from them.” Toastmasters teaches more than speaking skills. “I’ve also learned critical listening skills, organizational skills, and speech drafting.”
One of the biggest myths about Toastmasters is that it’s just for people whose careers involve public speaking, such as lawyers and salespeople. Actually, skills acquired through Toastmasters are applicable to everyone. “”I think anyone, regardless of career, could benefit from Toastmasters,” Jacob says. “Whether you’re giving an annual presentation at a board meeting or simply ordering in a restaurant, Toastmasters can help. We have a diverse membership from a wide array of backgrounds. While we do have a few professional speakers in our club, we also have filmmakers, engineers, dance instructors, and more.”
A member’s first speech before a Toastmasters group is called the “Icebreaker.” Jacob’s Icebreaker was about his narrow escape from being eaten by an alligator in Louisiana. “I won the best speaker award that night and had a blast.”
Jacob wants others to know that time with Toastmasters is time well spent. “I feel more confident in my speaking skills, and this has translated to more effective networking within my profession. I’d like to let people know that they don’t have to be terrorized by the fear of speaking. We have an amazing group of people at Asheville Toastmasters, and we’re supportive of everyone regardless of skill level. We all share the same goal – self-improvement.”
Asheville Toastmasters Club #436 meets every Thursday, 6:15 pm on the second floor of the YMI Cultural Center, 39 South Market Street, in downtown Asheville. Meetings are always free to the public. For more information, contact Nick Taylor-D’Ambrosio, (914) 424-7347, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.ashevilletoastmasters.com. Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.