For most people, public speaking is nerve-racking. For the Toastmasters, public speaking is a passion.
“Toastmasters is a world leader in programs to develop communication and leadership,” Martie Ogborn, a past district governor for Toastmasters and current member, said.
“The goal of the club is to provide a safe environment where people can come in and work on their communication and leadership skills by going through project manuals.”
Toastmasters, founded in 1924, is headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., and boasts more than 280,000 memberships in 13,500 clubs in 116 countries.
“In those 13,500 clubs worldwide, at each meeting there are typically three components,” Ogborn said. “There is a chance to deliver a prepared speech. There is an opportunity to participate in table topics, which is similar to a water cooler conversation, and finally, what we think is the most effective as far as Toastmasters is concerned is the evaluation segment of a meeting.
"Typically, meetings run between one hour and one-and-a-half hours.”
To join the club, one must fill out a basic application, which can be downloaded off the website, www.toastmasters.org, and then visit a club and talk to the club’s vice president.
“The international dues are very reasonable,” Ogborn said. “They are $6 a month, paid semi annually. There is a one time new member fee of $20.”
The new member fee covers the two beginner manuals, “Competent Communicator” and “Competent Leader.”
The projects for group members start with an icebreaker speech and include everything from organizing one’s thoughts to making a humorous speech.
Ogborn has been involved in the club since 2001 and, from 2010 to 2011, was the district governor of District 54, meaning she oversaw clubs throughout the state of Illinois.
“My career had been in trucking, which I loved,” Ogborn said.
“I then had a chance to leave full-time work and consider myself semi-retired, which brought me to a position at Caterpillar in the economics department.
“I was intimidated. My job there, with that department, was to manage their documentation, their white paper, their PowerPoint slides and things like that. That’s when I found Toastmasters. With that, I became more confident, and I felt like I had the tools I needed to organize my thoughts and gain that articulation.”
It does not take long to see results with Toastmasters, Ogborn said.
“I am very pleased to share that a supervisor at Caterpillar suggested to a young lady that she go to Toastmasters,” Ogborn said. “The purpose was that she had a presentation to give to the entire business unit. Within a week-and-a-half, she came to a meeting, she understood some basics of becoming a more polished speaker, she applied those, she focused on the organization, she narrowed her message down to a purpose and she nailed it.”
As diverse as the people in the organization are, that is how diverse the different clubs are.
“Clubs usually meet twice a month but there are variables,” Ogborn said. “There are clubs that meet every week and that’s why we offer such a variety of clubs, locations and times, including clubs that meet in the mornings. There are clubs that meet over a meal and also clubs that meet later in the evening to accommodate the variety of different schedules that people have.
“Each club has its own personality so we encourage anyone interested in Toastmasters to visit several clubs to get a feel for that particular group and, hopefully, you’ll feel comfortable in each one but find one that fits your different needs.”
In Peoria, there is a Riverfront Club, a Prairieland Club, a CEFCU Corporate Club, a Pimiteoui Club, a Peoria Downtowners Club and a Bradley Club. There is also a Tazewell Club located in Pekin.
The fact that no two clubs are the same is something that gives the organization such staying power, Ogborn said.
“I think the organization is magic,” Ogborn said. “I think it is unique. You never know what you’re going to learn when you go to a Toastmasters meeting. I have never found a more positive group of people.”
The group is hosting a screening of the film “SPEAK” at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday at the Peoria Public Library downtown.
“We wanted to build awareness about Toastmasters,” Ogborn said. “We could not really think of a better way than to offer free admission and refreshment in a convenient location where a variety of Toastmaster clubs will be here to hostess the event and answer questions.”
The film is a documentary about the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking.
“The film is about six characters,” Ogborn said. “The producers of the film follow these six characters as they overcome life’s hurdles while participating in the world’s largest public speaking contest.
“It includes a lot of the struggles that they overcame to be more comfortable to give their, what we sometimes call, toastamonial.”
Following the screening, there will be a question and answer session with Toastmaster members.