Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I've heard of Toastmasters for some time. It's a group where they help you with public speaking, nice and simple.
The meeting was like a mix of AA, the Masons and a Spelling B. The meeting was held in my building. I walked in and there was this podium with all these award ribbons hanging off it - weird.
They started with an invocation asking God to help us speak better. I guess that's a reasonable request.
Toastmasters is big on honorifics - the Daily Toastmaster, Toastmaster Analyst, the Toastmaster Timekeeper, etc.
They were also big an applause - anyone who went up to the podium to do anything got a hearty and sincere applause. It was odd at first, but I came to understand that every action was practice at public speaking, so they tried to make it real.
Everything was evaluated. Two people gave prepared speeches that had to last 5-7 minutes, and these were critiqued by two volunteers and the Master Toastmaster, or whatever his title was. All of these were done earnestly, with kindness but also helpful and frank suggestions. It had that unique camaraderie where you could give people feedback but not feel like you were attacking them.
I wasn't spared just because I was new. They asked me to talk about a recent decision to make buses safer by slowing them down. Every time I said "um" or used another pausing device, they dropped a penny in a jar so I'd get some recognizance of the slip. I talked for about 55 seconds about what I thought about the decision and only "earned" two pennies. I even wove in a joke and talked about my busing experience in high school and college. My goal was 2 - 2.5 minutes, and I knew I fell short, but I couldn't think of anything else to say, so I wrapped it up.
I'd like to go again.