Toastmasters Clubs in Oviedo and Winter Springs are helping neighbors from all walks of life be more confident and achieve their goals
There is no doubt: We’ve become a society of texters and emailers.
But the international organization Toastmasters is firmly rooted in a more traditional – and more important – form of communication: the spoken word. The group aims to not only build better public speakers, but spark career advancement, improve confidence, and reveal new opportunities all at the same time.
Toastmasters began in Illinois in 1924, and its members in Oviedo and Winter Springs find modern-day values, lessons, and friendships in their clubs. Let’s meet some of them:
She Keeps Going and Going
Tonya Kaynar is an officer with Oviedo Toastmasters, which meets every Thursday night from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at a local IHOP. An account and sales manager with Energizer, the battery company, Tonya came to a turning point when she videotaped herself presenting some training material for other supervisors – and it wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences.
“I watched myself back, and I was just horrified,” Tonya says. “I Googled speech lessons, and Toastmasters was the first thing to come up. I figured that I could pay $95 an hour for someone to tell me everything I do wrong, or pay $50 for six months to join Toastmasters.”
Not knowing a soul in the group, Tonya walked into IHOP one Thursday night and hasn’t looked back. She says that a recent job interview within her company was proof positive that Toastmasters is working.
“For the first time, I was able to answer questions confidently,” Tonya says. “I wasn’t searching for what I thought they wanted me to say.”
Tonya has also learned about her leadership style, and along the way, her 30 fellow Toastmasters have become like family.
The Doctor Is In
Daniel Saint-Elie is a pain-management doctor who joined the Winter Springs Toastmasters Club in 2016, after being invited by a friend.
“All the members were committed to self-improvement,” he says, “and they were nice, genuine, authentic, helpful, and some were very funny and entertaining.”
Daniel saw his public-speaking skills as a weakness and a liability. But when he saw members give effective speeches, ask questions, and evaluate each other’s speeches, he was motivated to become a better speaker. Daniel has parlayed his new strength into momentum as a medical expert, something he wouldn’t have considered before.
“With the confidence that I have acquired, I have appeared on radio shows, and I speak at health seminars,” he says.
Winter Springs Toastmasters meets at The Foundry Church on Tuesday nights. The Weekend Toastmasters Club gathers at The Foundry on Sunday afternoons. As with all Toastmasters meetings, anyone is welcome.
Leading by Example
Jerry Smith is a 20-year veteran Toastmaster and goes to both meetings, on Tuesdays and Sundays, in Winter Springs.
“Toastmasters gave me the edge in getting a job I desired as a community representative for a large insurance company,” he says, calling his involvement in the club the deciding factor. “It was an asset on my résumé.”
Jerry points to the fact that Toastmasters teaches skills that aren’t only valuable in a professional environment, but in community leadership, as well, with communication and leadership intertwined.
“Leaders need to communicate effectively, and communicators need to be able to lead,” Jerry says.
Visitors can come to as many Toastmasters meetings as they want before they join, says Tonya. Once they join a club, members choose a pathway, or goal, to work toward. Though self-motivation is needed, each new Toastmaster is assigned a mentor to keep them on track.
Members sign up to deliver speeches – the first one being an introductory (or icebreaker) speech – which is four-to-six-minutes long. Speeches get longer as members progress. Fellow Toastmasters take on different roles at meetings like timing speeches, counting how many times a speaker says um or ah in hesitation, and evaluating speakers’ overall performance.
“We are gentle,” Tonya says. “We use a sandwich method, where we say what they did well, what could use improvement, and then end on a high note.”
Many Motivations, One Inspiration
Reasons for joining Toastmasters vary.
Tonya says some Toastmasters want to become more confident speakers because English isn’t their first language. David Girrbach of the Weekend Toastmasters, meanwhile, wanted to translate his victory over alcoholism, addiction, and depression into positive messaging for others. Some Toastmasters are in college, while others are in their 70s. The group gives them all a supportive, friendly network in which to hone their speaking skills.
“The rewards are immeasurable,” says Jerry.
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