Toastmasters Clubs Help People Overcome Public Speaking Fears

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By Ben Calwell bcalwell@cnpapers.com 304-348-5188 Asked to address a group of people, a shy persons inclination might be to run and hide. Public speaking is one of the most anxiety-producing activities a person can do, and for many, it is an experience to be avoided at all costs. Toastmasters clubs, however, are there to help people become confident speakers and better leaders, whether its in a personal or business setting. Jason Krantz of Milton joined Toastmasters to improve his speaking ability as a customer service trainer for American Electric Power. In fact, Krantz, who works in Hurricane, is the president of the Dobson-Craddock Toastmasters Club, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The club meets at noon on the first and third Thursday of each month in the South Charleston Public Library, 312 Fourth Ave. In an e-mail, Krantz said, I joined Toastmasters because I wanted to improve my speaking ability by learning to slow down and avoid filler words such as ah, so and um, just to name a few. Since a great deal of my daily work was speaking to groups, it seemed a perfect place to learn. Some of the benefits of joining a Toastmasters club are increased self- confidence, better speaking abilities and enhanced leadership and communication skills. Many people come to Toastmasters so they can be better prepared to speak in front of groups large or small in their current employment. Some members want to improve their general speaking habits due to a stutter or lisp, Krantz said. A typical Toastmasters meeting lasts an hour twice a month. Activities include Table Topics, where members are asked questions on a variety of topics and then asked to speak off the cuff on the topic for at least one minute. They speak for one minute even if they have no knowledge of the topic. This is an exercise in speaking and not graded on content, he said. Members also summarize articles from Toastmaster Magazine in two-minute presentations. Meetings also include Word Master, where members choose a new word to learn and then use it in a speech. Every speaker has an assigned evaluator that uses a Toastmasters manual to grade the speaker. They may evaluate the speaker on many things, such as content, flow, voice inflection, purpose and timing, just to name a few, Krantz said. Krantz said the Dobson-Craddock Toastmasters Club started out 40 years ago as the H.E. Dobson Toastmasters Club, named for its founder, Herbert Dobson. Mr. Dobson was a very influential member of our club and Toastmasters International. Mr. Dobson is no longer an active member and is now in a nursing home. …