Thursday, June 23 2022

Portlandia Toastmasters Club member architect Andrea Matthews knows stage fright. The first time she gave a speech without notes, “it was a little scary,” she said. “But I did and everyone laughed again. They were still smiling. They were still applauding. I felt like a million dollars.

Matthews isn’t the only one who wants to be more relaxed and efficient when talking to others. People who join groups like Toastmasters to improve their presentations are salespeople, educators, pastors, and comedians.

Traditionally, people seek personal development clubs in January driven by self-imposed New Year’s resolutions or aspirations. Some who want to overcome their fear of public speaking have jobs that require them to speak into a microphone, person or during a teleconference. Others may be looking for a new job.

Sometimes people join in because they have a great presentation that they want to practice, says Matthews, architect on sabbatical and emerging artist. Some people just want to make new friends.

“Toastmasters meets people where they are,” she says. It is a place “where you face a support group who will applaud you and give you feedback.”

People turn to clubs like Toastmasters, or take improv and other classes to feel more comfortable talking, whether it’s telling a joke at a friends table or to develop their professional communication and leadership skills.

The nonprofit organization Toastmasters International started out as a YMCA in 1924 and evolved to encompass the world of teleconferencing necessitated by a global pandemic.

When ordering home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Toastmasters online meetings now include ways to improve Zoom’s presence and “provide a fun place to grow and a strong sense of grounding,” says Matthews.

The Portlandia Toastmasters Club, which was founded in 1978, first held weekly meetings at City Hall, then at the Portland Building and the World Trade Center during the Portland Building renovation. Members returned to the Portland Building on February 27, 2020.

“Less than a month later, we switched to a fully online format, because of COVID,” says Matthews, whose group plans to continue offering online and in-person meetings after he is again. sure to meet physically in one place.

Virtual sessions allow potential members to choose a group that matches their personality, not just their location.

Each club has a unique culture and people are encouraged to attend meetings as a free guest to find their favorite.

Oregon has approximately 150 Toastmasters clubs, from Ashland to Portland and beyond. The Salmon Speakers are in Vancouver, Washington, and the Gorge Windbags are in Hood River. There is the Flying Toasters Club in Salem and the Yawn Patrol Club in Eugene.

The Siuslaw Tale Spinners meet in Florence and the Creative Communicators in Mount Angel.

Wilsonville has the Audacious Orators while the Myrtlewood Hootowlers Club is in Bandon and WE Toasted is listed in Lake Oswego.

To join Toastmasters, visit a club in person or online, complete an application, and pay $ 45 for six-month international dues and the $ 20 one-time fee for new members. Some clubs also charge club fees.

“Most clubs allow you to visit as a guest as many times as you want for free,” says Matthews. “As a guest you have the option of participating in Table Topics, where you can practice your impromptu speaking skills for two minutes. “

Members have access to Toastmasters’ online Pathways at Their Pace program which teaches hundreds of practical workplace skills.

“Toastmasters gives confidence to anyone who applies the Principles,” says Paul Wallman, Portlandia Toastmasters Club member. “You go to meetings every week in a safe place to talk and get kind comments. “

The club’s meeting in September, after the wildfires, focused on “Thriving During Disruption”. One of the January meetings is Star Wars themed.

Portland Rotary, Multnomah Athletic Club, and Portland Progressives also host Toastmaster meetings.

For the first time, the International Toastmasters Convention went live in August, and people could watch presentations from the world champion speakers for free. Many clubs are planning to hold online speech contests in 2021.

People looking for better ways to improve their Zoom meeting attendance and overcome a long-standing fear of speaking in front of a group look to clubs like Toastmasters to learn while doing.

In a video commissioned by The Oregonian / OregonLive to explain the benefits of confident public speaking, Matthews looks directly into her smartphone camera and remembers a moment before a speech when she spoke. asked, “What did I get myself into?” “

She then relied on the advice she learned from club members. She bulleted and used everyday language to express her enthusiasm for a topic she felt comfortable bringing up.

Like David Letterman, Matthews, in reverse order of the countdown, comes up with his list of the top five benefits for improving presentations:

5. You can advance your career. A club member has gained the confidence to request and receive a raise. Another member is called upon at work to give high quality presentations to audiences large and small. Salespeople say it helps them pick the right words and engage customers with humor.

“Your writing will also benefit from training, because half of the speech is preparation,” says Matthews. “For my career, I have learned to be direct and concise by asking what I need from the people I supervise. I also gained the confidence to ask, receive and give feedback.

4. You can better share your message with others. It could be the value of the product you’re selling or why your team should be proud of their accomplishments.

3. You can improve the way you express yourself or your opinions. Toastmasters teaches many ways to communicate, including and beyond the words you say, allowing you to be more intentional in your communication.

2. You are a better leader. When you can share your message clearly and authentically, people understand where you stand and may decide to support you.

1. You will feel good. There is nothing quite like seeing a group of people applaud your public speaking. “This is the main benefit I personally felt from Toastmasters, and it was a benefit I never expected,” says Matthews.

She says the training also helped her focus on the positive, have courage in social situations, and trust others to step up and share their leadership.

Portlandia Toastmasters Club members use a virtual background and a real background which is not intrusive.Andrea Matthews

Does your home allow you to work remotely, learn online, and video chat with friends and family?

If not, there are ways to make a space look more professional and promote a more relaxed Zoom presence, with an unobtrusive background and improved lighting and sound, says Matthews.

If you live with others, choose a space where you can close the door and avoid interruptions.

“People at the meeting can enjoy seeing your children or pets come into the frame as long as they don’t prevent you from participating in the meeting,” says Matthews. “Most people understand that circumstances are difficult to control these days. “

Some people hide a messy or dark background with a virtual background. “If you want to use your IRL [in real life] background, it’s great to have something simple there, or at least not to distract, ”she says.

Diffused lighting, with a light source behind your camera, helps soften facial features. A table lamp with a shade can work for this or invest in a ring lamp.

Test the audio before your online meeting. If the meeting software does not allow you to listen to a recording of you as the only participant, connect with a remote friend before the meeting to test volumes or check in early and test the sound with others up early.

“Some people invest in a decent quality helmet to avoid the guesswork,” says Matthews.

Even if you don’t do all of that, Toastmasters is a safe place to practice and have fun, she says.

“No one will fire you if you make a mistake,” she said. “Mistakes give us all the opportunity to learn.”

– Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072

jeastman@oregonian.com | @janeteastman



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