Why I joined Toastmasters

A club to build confidence and speaking skills

Patrick Ullmer | Photo courtesy
What a typical in-person Toastmasters meeting would look like.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization focused on helping people become more confident with themselves while learning to speak publicly and dispelling personal insecurities about being heard. The Gate City Toastmasters Club is an organization on NDSU’s campus that once met in Loftsgard Hall each Thursday but now meets online through Zoom—more on that later. 

It is a group I was once wary about but am currently the Vice President of. I will explain the contents of weekly Toastmasters meetings and why I joined their environment of self-discovery.

Every week, Toastmasters meet to discuss current events of their own choosing. Our meetings go as follows. First, a presiding officer (established honorary member) calls the meeting to order and is then followed by the Toastmaster, whose role is to be the presiding organizer of the club. 

The Toastmaster may explain a concurrent theme to follow for the meeting relating to current events or hobbies he or she may like. This is then followed by the timer, whose job is to keep track of the time. Any and all speakers will be given between five and seven minutes for their speech.

A Grammarian is a member whose role is to watch the grammar every member uses and then give an account of what misuses were used during the whole meeting. 

Then follows an enjoyable activity in the meeting called “Table Topics,” in which a person asks questions that guests and/or members who have not spoken yet may answer in a short expression of words. “Table Topics’ usually range from between one to two minutes long. All activities are then evaluated and given constructive criticism by the Speech Evaluator and General Evaluator respectively. The goal of these meetings is to have everyone in attendance contribute something beneficial to the meeting.

The design is to help people speak clearer and more confidently while being mindful and respectful of others in gentle conversation. I joined this club to help me be more assured when speaking to others and was a guest for a year and a half, only joining when I was invited. However, I have stayed on board for a different reason; I felt appreciated and respected by the members. 

Each member of Toastmasters is obliged to go out of their way to make other members feel comfortable and special. In Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” he explains the most important law of human conduct is to, “always make the other person feel important.” As a Toastmasters member, we do so automatically. Everyone is treated with respect in this club.

We are now meeting on Zoom via a link we pass to each other. The meeting takes place from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday evenings. Being the Vice President, it is my job to set up the meeting. For those interested in joining, you may contact presiding members on campus including Burton Johnson, Annette Thompson or yours truly.

It can be easy to alienate yourself from the rest of the world and believe you are alone during this quarantine. Toastmasters is a club you can join in these times to realize how important you can be in a team of like-minded people and be a part of something very special.

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