Able To Say ‘Yes’: Why You Should Join Toastmasters

Note: Yesterday, March 6, Henderson’s Riverbend Toastmasters Club attended the Henderson Rotary Club meeting to present a demonstration meeting. LouAnn Clark was the Toastmaster, I was the speaker, Brad Staton was my evaluator, Stacey Howell was the timer and Kacie Mattox was our Topicsmaster. Upon finishing my speech, I completed all of the requirements for my first award as a Toastmaster: Competent Communicator. Here is the manuscript version of my speech. The actual speech deviated some from this text and there’s always an awkwardness when one presents a reader with words that were originally meant to be heard, rather than read.

rbtm rotary demo 1A few years ago, I attended a fundraising dinner for a local non-profit here in Henderson. Shortly after I arrived at the affair, I was approached by the leader of the organization. He had a simple request. Would I be willing to go to the stage, say a few words of welcome and offer the grace before the meal?

I froze.

“Could you find someone else?” I asked. He did.

And I’ve regretted that ever since.

Mr Toastmaster, Rotarians, fellow Toastmasters and guests, even before I joined Toastmasters, I spoke in public quite regularly. My job in ministry requires me to be a leader, to give directions and to hold a microphone on an almost weekly basis. Yet I was unable to summon the confidence that would allow me to speak, unrehearsed, in front of a large group on that occasion.

When I was asked to come to the first meeting of Riverbend Toastmasters, I came to support our organizer and sponsoring member, LouAnn Clark. I stayed because I realized how much I needed the group. Today, I want to share some of the many reasons to say yes to Toastmasters.

You anticipate that I’ll tell you about how toastmasters will improve your speaking skills, so we’ll start there.  If you often find yourself at a podium, in front of a microphone, on a stage, or in the head position at a meeting–OR if you would like to be a person in any of these positions, you would benefit from being a Toastmaster! During each meeting, many people have the opportunity to address the group. Several times a year, yes, you will have the opportunity to give a speech on a topic of your choosing, but much more often than that, you’ll have the opportunity to fill other speaking roles that are important in our meeting environment, which means we all get lots of practice. if you say “ah” or “um” often when you speak, forget to stand up straight, have trouble speaking slowly or loudly enough, have trouble staying on topic or simply wish you had a better presence when addressing a group, Toastmasters can help!

Toastmasters will improve your ability to carry conversations in all situations. Most of the speaking you do in life is conversational and not prepared ahead of time. At toastmasters we practice this every week. In a few minutes, our Table Topics master will lead us in an exercise of impromptu speaking. For some, it’s the most challenging part of the meeting, yet we can all admit it’s a very useful part of the meeting as we practice being able to respond to questions we have not prepared to answer. If you would like to become better at speaking around the water cooler, in your boss’ office or when making small talk at parties or networking functions, Toastmasters will most definitely help you!

Often in life, listening and being able to give effective feedback is important. At Toastmasters we give attention and feedback each week in the form of our paper evaluation ballots, our Ah Counter, Grammarian and Timer reports and our speaker evaluations from the podium—you’ll see that later when …… evaluates this speech. At Toastmasters, we all start out offering “I liked your speech” types of comments. as we get more comfortable we learn how to bring out the good words alongside of suggestions for improvement. At Toastmasters we learn how to constructively criticize and help each other become better communicators. If you are someone who regularly offers feedback and evaluation, you will develop those skills and learn how to do it in a way that effectively brings improvement.

Riverbend Toastmasters not only offers all of the development opportunities I’ve already mentioned, it does it in an environment that is fun and encouraging. Coming to Toastmasters each week is a pick-me-up. The room is often filled with laughter and it is always filled with applause. In this group, I’ve expanded my professional network and I’ve made new friends who are helping me become the best version of myself.

A couple of months ago, I was at another dinner, standing in a room full of people. A familiar thing happened—the host asked if I would say grace. I flashed back to the fundraiser several years ago, remembering my refusal. But this time, I said yes. I said it confidently. I said it without fear. I know it’s because of Toastmasters. I hope that if you have not already, that you will join me on this journey and become better able to say ‘yes’ to the things that challenge you!

June Photos: Topicsmaster


Well…of course I wish the quality of this picture were a bit better, but you squint a little bit and you can probably see what’s going on here.

I was Table Topics Master today at Toastmasters. Table Topics is, for some, the most frightening part of the Toastmasters Meeting. It is also one of the most fun, exciting, hilarious parts of the meeting on a very regular basis.

The Topicsmaster prepares an interactive five minutes. He or she may decide to ask questions of individuals in the room. He or she may create a game type scenario. He or she may simply invite people to speak on various topics or themes. The participants have had no way to prepare for this part of the meeting and therefore must act on the spot (impromptu speaking, as we practiced in high school speech class).

Today, I brought a bag or random objects I found around the church yesterday afternoon and invited participants to blindly pull an item out of the bag and then attempt to sell that item to everybody else in the room.

Earl pulled out this Pinocchio ring “toss” game. Good times ensued!

(Hey, have I ever told you that Riverbend Toastmasters meets at noon every Wednesday? Currently, we’re meeting in the community room at Independence Bank at the corner of Washington and Green! Guests are welcome, always.)

Tuesday Ten: Reasons You Should Join A Toastmasters Club

Charlyn and Nibby wrestled for the coveted "Best Speaker of the Week" trophy at a recent meeting
Charlyn and Nibby wrestled for the coveted “Best Speaker of the Week” trophy at a recent meeting

I’ve been a member of Riverbend Toastmasters since November. It is one of the best decisions I’ve made recently. Here’s why I think you should seek out and join a Toastmasters Club:

1. You will become a stronger public speaker (you expected me to say that, but it’s true!).

2. You will become a better listener as you participate in meetings listening for “ahs,” listening to speeches, and giving evaluations.

3. You will be able to give people better feedback in professional and social situations because you will practice evaluating peers every week.

4. You will meet people who work in a variety of industries and from a variety of interest backgrounds.

5. You will make new friends.

6. You will receive invaluable training at a fraction of the price you’d pay for it at conferences or by taking classes.

7. You can earn awards in speaking and in leadership.

8. You can feed your competitive nature by participating in speech and evaluation contests.

9. You will improve your conversation skills.

10. You will have a place to learn about a variety of subjects. Speakers can talk about whatever they choose! In the past months, we’ve heard speeches on bicycling, strawberries, a family member’s experiences in World War II, digital citizenship, airplanes, post-traumatic stress disorder, nursing, mission work in Africa, Family Systems Theory and so many other topics.

Tomorrow, Wednesday June 12, Riverbend Toastmasters in Henderson, KY will have a one hour Open House meeting at Independence Bank at Green and Washington streets at noon. Anyone is welcome to come and observe our meeting. Guests will enjoy a free, catered lunch and get to see what happens during the hour we meet each week. Our guarantee is that visitors do not have to speak, but we often find that sometimes visitors can’t help themselves, and we guarantee that such bravery will merit what we give every speaker and participant–hearty applause for taking the risk!


Toastmaster Topics: Finding The One

'Conversation Hearts' photo (c) 2009, Flare - license: is Toastmaster today and her topic of choice is “Finding the One.” In her own words:

This week covers many extremes, from Mardi Gras to Ash Wednesday, which is then followed by the most romantic day of the year. I considered all this and decided on “Finding the One” for our theme. I look forward to hearing your interpretation of this sentiment.

Given her observation of the week, I wonder what you think of when you hear that our theme is “Finding the One.”

For me, I immediately think of how this topic relates to Valentine’s Day. A lot of people are looking to find THE ONE. Maybe they’re looking for spouses or life partners or just for a Valentine.

But this week does also begin Lent. For weeks, I’ve struggled to figure out how to best observe Lent. Maybe like me, you’re looking to find THE ONE Lenten Discipline you’ll focus on this year.

Today is also Girl Scout Cookie delivery today. In fact, unfortunately this means I have to miss today’s Toastmasters Meeting (It’s okay–it means you can go sit in my empty seat). There are a lot of people waiting for that ONE favorite kind of Girl Scout cookie.

Whatever ONE you’re looking for, I do hope you find it!

(Toastmasters meets each Wednesday at noon at the Henderson County Public Library in the Multi-Purpose room. Visitors are always welcome!)


Toastmasters Topics: Renewal

Charlyn is Toastmaster at Wednesday’s meeting, and she has chosen the topic of renewal.

'Library books.' photo (c) 2006, Jeffrey Beall - license: encounter the idea of renewal frequently in my life…

  • The other day, I renewed my library books.
  • My mailbox often contains envelopes inviting me to renew a subscription to a magazine I like.
  • I received the renewal tags for the church van in the mail yesterday.

Vows, licenses, subscriptions–all things we renew.

I’m currently in need of renewal of my spirit. It’s been a challenging week so far, I’m not sleeping well and I’m a bit under the weather. Overall, I’m tired because life has been moving fast for me since November without much of a break. I’m desperately looking forward to a week of Sabbath in April and trying to find spaces and corners for rest in the mean time.

How does renewal come? For me, it comes

  • In quiet.
  • Through prayer.
  • Over coffee with a friend.
  • Couch time with my family.
  • Sleep.
  • Good music.

As often happens, I think of a Scripture that references our topic:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”

—-Isaiah 40:31

The renewer of hearts, mind and strength is none other than the Creator of the ends of the earth.

If you’re in need of renewal like I am, may you find rest in God.

(Riverbend Toastmasters meets at noon each Wednesday in the multi-purpose room of the Henderson County Public Library. Everyone’s welcome to join us!)



Toastmaster Topics: Snow!


Clydean Gish is the meeting’s Toastmaster today (Wednesday) and she chose “Snow” as the theme for the meeting.

For the first eighteen years of my life, winter always included several inches of snow. We lived near Lake Michigan and were very familiar with “Lake Effect Snow.” From November thru March, we were hardly ever without snow. Here are some memories I have that include snow:

When we were kids, we loved to go sledding. We always had saucers and sleds to use and there were two main places we used them. At Oak Ridge Prairie Park in a nearby community, there was a HUGE hill. It was a treat to go there to sled. The other place we used our sleds? Our backyard. We had a large deck on the back of our house and my dad used to pack the steps full of snow and create a sled hill. Down the steps we’d sled and through the backyard.Sometimes you could make it all the way to the back fence!

xmas2My very first driving lesson with my Driver’s Ed instructor occurred in a snowstorm. I remember feeling just a bit concerned when he directed me to the Interstate (I65). I don’t remember my parents having any sort of concerns about the fact that I was having my very first driving lesson in a snowstorm. I drove my 50 minutes and we all survived.

When I moved to Evansville, Indiana for college, I was in for a surprise on the first day it snowed.  Not only did all classes and campus activities get canceled (it snowed half an inch), but all of the businesses in town started closing. My roommate, Becca (from Michigan), our friend Brie (from Juneau, Alaska) and I sat, bewildered, watching coverage of the major snow event on television.

Ixmas1n 2004, it snowed so much in Henderson, KY (about 20 inches?), that we had to cancel Christmas Eve services at our church. The Durham family spent days playing in the huge piles and drifts of snow. We have a lot of great pictures from that snowstorm!

This year, so far, we’ve had some pretty good snow. Some people love it. Some people hate it. None of us can control it.

I say let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

(Riverbend Toastmasters meets on Wednesdays at noon in the multipurpose room of the Henderson County Public Library. Join us as a guest today!)

Toastmaster Topics: Welcome Wagon

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200My dear friend Nibby is Toastmaster this week and he chose the topic of “Welcome Wagon.”

I suppose I missed the age of actual welcome wagons. It’s possible that upon moving into our house on 61st Avenue when I was small, my mother or father received such a visit, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a Welcome Wagon in real life. I suppose the only real knowledge I have of such things come from three venues:

1. Movies. Where the Welcome Wagon representative is often nosy, pushy and wears too much lipstick. Or is like this:

2. Music: The Welcome Wagon, an indie gospel band (with an album produced by Sufjan Stevens, which is pretty good credibility if you ask me.)

Their song “Remedy”

3.Church: In meetings where we discuss marketing our church, someone always suggests something to do with the “Welcome Wagon.” Dear, fellow Hendersonians: does such an entity still exist in some form?

I know when Jason and I were first married and before he settled into Presbyterian Church he decided to visit a few different kinds of churches, just to see what was going on in church in Henderson. He’d visit on a Sunday morning and often, on a Monday evening, our doorbell would ring. Church members would bring a basket or a dish or a bag of goodies for our family. Jason used to keep track so he could declare a winner (I do believe that in 2002, that winner was Zion Baptist, who delivered a huge basket of useful items, by the way).

But above musings aside, the Welcome Wagon is still an important concept. Hospitality is an important part of community of any sort. When someone visits your home, your church, your meeting, your company, you should seek to be welcoming! Provide information, pour a cup of coffee, offer a seat. When you are the regular and someone is new, it’s important to extend a hand of welcome and take the time to make him or her feel comfortable. Chances are, someone did it for you once.

(Riverbend Toastmasters meets each Wednesday at noon in the Multi-purpose room at the Henderson County Public Library. We would love to welcome you at our meetings!)


Toastmasters Topic: New Beginnings

Every Wednesday now, I have Toastmasters. Each meeting has a theme. I’m going to try to regularly blog about the theme or topic of the meeting, just as an exercise in thinking and writing.

The theme this week is “New Beginnings.”

I think about the number of new beginnings I’ve had in my life. I think about the obvious ones: the time in my life when I decided to follow Jesus; the day I moved to college; the day I graduated from college; the day I married Jason…

But then I remember that Lamentations 3:22-23 says:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
   God’s mercies never come to an end; 
they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.

Every day is a new beginning. Every day is a chance to begin again. It’s never too late. You can always make a change. You can always get a fresh start. Sometimes you have to wait until morning, but morning always comes.

May this morning be a new beginning for you, too!

(Riverbend Toastmasters meets every Wednesday from 12-1 in the Multi-purpose room of the Henderson County Public Library! You are welcome to join us!)