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State College Toastmasters Aim to Boost Confidence, Leadership Skills

by and on March 20, 2017 5:00 AM

Distinguished Toastmaster Patti Thor notes that, “When we’re children, everyone encourages us to walk and talk. As soon as we master that, they say, ‘Be quiet, stop talking.’”

Some people, according to Thor, never recover that ease in their speech. That’s where Toastmasters International can help.

“I remember one woman who didn’t even want to speak her name when she first came,” Thor said. “It’s exciting to see people grow and become more comfortable as they continue in Toastmasters.”

Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development, with more than 345,000 memberships. Toastmasters clubs operate in 142 countries.

The State College area boasts four Toastmasters clubs. They encourage people to form new groups to grow the membership and allow more individuals to improve their ability to speak more comfortably, communicate and “think on their feet.”

Thor has held the rank of Distinguished Toastmaster since 2011. She had to give close to 50 speeches and serve in leadership roles in her club, Penn State Pingers, to earn that title. Thor is the Division C director.

“Whether you are looking to advance your career or advocate for your favorite cause, better speaking and leadership skills will improve your chances of success,” said Thor. "Toastmasters Clubs offer members and guests a safe place to learn and practice with the help and support of senior members who give valuable and encouraging feedback.

“It is a great way to boost your confidence and the audience will always be kind.”

Toastmasters clubs provide a supportive environment, where everyone is growing and championing one another to better their performances, according to Thor. “Whether you are a seasoned professional or a petrified first-timer, you will be reassured with two to three things you did well and motivated with one or two areas in which you can improve,” Thor said.

Everyone works at their own pace on projects in the Toastmasters clubs. A typical meeting usually starts with an invocation and the word of the day. Then someone presents a humorous moment. Usually, there are two or three speakers per meeting and they have an evaluator assigned to them.

There is a portion of the meeting devoted to table topics where a “table top master" asks a question and picks someone randomly to answer. This requires the answerer to think quickly and answer in one or two minutes.

The District Toastmasters Conference will be held on Friday, April 7, through Sunday, April 9, at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Centre in State College. The winner from the Saturday, March 18, Division C International Speech Contest and Evaluation Speech Contest will complete on Saturday, April 8, at the district event. Winners there will go on to compete at the International Toastmasters Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, in August.

Every Toastmaster's journey begins with a single speech. “The most magical part of the Toastmasters journey is to witness each member build courage and competence,” said Thor.

For more information, visit www.toastmasters.org.



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


Connie Cousins covers Centre County for the Gazette.
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