STEPPING OUT - The Lacombe Toastmasters Sandwich Club is welcoming new members to sign on as a new season of refining one’s speaking and leadership skills kicks off. photo submitted

Community invited to check out local Toastmasters’ group

The group meets twice monthly at Lacombe City Hall

Looking to sharpen up your public speaking skills and build confidence and leadership skills in making presentations?

The Lacombe Toastmasters Sandwich Club runs the second and the fourth Thursday of each month at noon at City Hall. Meetings last one hour.

Originally, the group started out as a means for City employees to work on their public speaking skills, but now they want to broaden the gathering to include anyone in the local community who may be interested, said Sonya Beauclair, an administrative assistant in the City’s Recreation and Culture department and who also serves as president of the Club.

“Toastmasters is a group that was started in order to help people improve their communication and leadership skills,” said Beauclair.

“There are those two components to it, and when you join there are two different manuals that you get, so one focuses on your communication and the other focuses on your leadership skills.”

Each meeting is run by a toastmaster, and then individuals give speeches which are either planned and prepared for or are done ‘on the spot’.

“During the meeting, people have the opportunity to do either a prepared speech or they can do impromptu ones – and the impromptu ones are kind of helping you to learn to better think on your feet. They are also good for when you have an interview, in helping you focus on what you want to say,” she explained.

“With our group, we are very supportive,” she said. “And you do get evaluated when you do a speech.”

After you complete 10 speeches, you land the title of competent communicator as well.

And there is no need to worry – it’s all done in a constructive and supportive manner. “They will tell you what you did well and areas where you can improve. We always wrap up on something you did well, so that’s how we evaluate and that way you can work on those skills.”

Interestingly, during a given speech, someone may count the number of times you utter an ‘um’, a ‘well’ or a ‘so’ – which are known as ‘crutch’ words and are extremely common in everyday speech but can be something of a distraction from your message.

“Becoming aware of the fact that you are saying those can help you reduce the amount that you actually say them,” she said. Beauclair has been part of the Club for about four years now. “I’ve been there since we started the Club.”

As mentioned, it was originally for City workers as a kind of training program.

“We’ve just recently opened our club to the general public to allow new members to come in,” she said. “Now we just want to grow the Club and get some new people.”

According to www.publicspeakingpower.com, “Public speaking is commonly stated as the number one fear above everything else – even death. This notion was popularized by Jerry Seinfeld when he stated that most people at a funeral would prefer to be in the coffin than to be giving the eulogy.”

Meanwhile, Beauclair encourages folks to try it out – you don’t necessarily have to say anything in particular at your first meeting either.

“You can just watch everything and that way you kind of get a feel for it.”

After all, even when mistakes are made during a speech, few will likely notice. And as Beauclair pointed out, she recalls shaking while speaking publicly once, and was later told it wasn’t even noticeable. Ultimately, audiences tend to be supportive and ‘on your side’ anyways.

“They talk about changing your nerves from letting them control you into using them to make your speech even better – kind of using them as energy for your speech.

“I think I’ve improved with my public speaking – I still find it intimidating and I don’t know if that will ever go away. But I will get up and do it. I also started teaching a course on public speaking – so that’s been interesting.

“It’s still a little bit nerve-wracking, but I think the big thing is practice.”

For more information, call or text Beauclair at 403-872-1535 or email her at sbeauclair@lacombe.ca. You can also find them on facebook under ‘Lacombe Toastmasters Sandwich Club’.

news@lacombeexpress.com