Phoenix Toastmasters Club: Early birds get rid of butterflies

2014-08-02 — Good Characters (Leave a message)

This article is a supplement for my other article: Things I did to improve my English and reduce my accent. The purposes are to show you what the Toastmasters club I go to is like and to encourage you to join Toastmasters to improve your public speaking.

The Toastmasters Club I belong to is called Phoenix Toastmasters. The name is a bit confusing because many people think Phoenix, Arizona when they hear the name. It’s a Fresno, California club but we meet in a Denny’s Restaurant in Clovis, California, a city right next to Fresno.

Our club meet at 6:30 every Monday morning except federal holidays. The meeting lasts exactly an hour. It’s crazy early in the morning to do this, but it is a great way to start the week. As a result, we tend to get members who are self-motivated and driven to improve their public speaking and communication skills. Birds of a feather flock together. It’s good to be associated with other positive and motivated people.

Here’s a picture of Midori. She’s a second-generation Japanese American and a great mentor for me at Toastmasters. At 80 something, she’s still very energetic and loves to share and help people.

We hang an American flag and the club banner at the meeting. This should be common knowledge but some people don’t know it: The blue should be on the left when you hang the American flag vertically.

Anthony is our club president this year. I am amazed at his progress in just a few meetings after joining the club. He already possessed many good qualities of a good speaker but in the beginning he was nervous and used “um,” “ah,” and other distractive filler words. As soon as he gained confidence and became more relaxed, he really engaged the audience.

At Toastmasters, we learned that it’s a good idea to prepare an intro for people who introduce you as a speaker. It establishes your credentials and helps you get right into your speech with the full attention of the audience.

Here’s an example of Anthony’s most recent speech intro that I’d like to share with you: “Anthony enjoys working with customers to continually improve their processes. He enjoys learning about new technologies that benefit his customers. He also enjoys implementing the technologies in real applications with his project team of engineers. This morning Anthony is working from the Technical Presentations Manual project number 3: The Nontechnical Audience. This is a 10- to 12-minute project titled ‘The Everyday Uses of Variable Frequency Drives.’”

This is me. I think I look better than this but pictures don’t lie. So I have learned to be content with and accept reality.

Candace joined the club not long ago but she’s already moved us with several emotional and memorable speeches.

I usually order a breakfast with either hot tea, coffee, or iced tea.

Kim has been our server for years and we appreciate her.

Midori engaged the audience when she spoke. She was working on speaking humorously. Being humorous is not being a jokester. Humor is the salt and pepper of a good speech, as our senior member and mentor Gordon has often said.

Sylvia is one of our great evaluators. A great benefit to being in a club like Toastmasters is getting honest feedback that helps you improve and do better next time. Every member here learns to evaluate others in addition to giving regular short speeches.

Rebecca is our current club VP of Education. She schedules our weekly meeting roles and helps members get the most out of meetings.

Natural gestures help the speaker communicate with the audience.

The dry-erase board in front of the lectern shows “the word of the day.” We try to use it throughout the meeting and especially during the impromptu Q&A “table topics” section of the meeting. It’s a fun way to learn and incorporate a new word to increase our vocabulary.

Kee gave a speech about body language. She demonstrated crossing arms and looking upset.

But she’s actually a very nice lady!

Grace was giving an evaluation of Midori’s speech. You should read her article in defense of tiger moms on CNN’s website: Why tiger moms are great. I included the link below.

Anthony gave an evaluation of Kee’s speech. There are specific objectives for each speech project. The job of an evaluator is to help the speaker do even better next time.

Sylvia is our Topicmaster of the day. She randomly selects a member, usually starting with those who haven’t have a chance to speak yet, and asks a question. The person called on is supposed to give a short impromptu speech that’s 45 seconds to 2 minutes in length and uses the word of the day. This is a great way to train yourself to think on your feet. Just imagine how valuable this skill will be when you’re interviewed on stage or by a news reporter in front of a video camera.

Christian has so much knowledge about many topics. He is a Renaissance man. I have learned new things from him.

Ruri is one of our newest members. She is from Tokyo and studied in America, receiving a degree in Spanish. Like me, she’s also here to reduce her accent and improve her speaking skills.

More photos from the table topics section.

One of our former members, Alexandra, said, “When you become a Toastmaster, you are opened to a world of opportunity to meet many different people and venture through a truly self-improving experience.” I agree with her. If you’re serious about improving communication skills, consider joining Toastmasters or a similar organization.

I’d like to hear your experiences and stories that you want to share. Please leave me a message.

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