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Toastmasters helps members develop public speaking skills

Dylan Silver
dsilver@tahoedailytribune.com
Dylan Silver / Tahoe Daily Tribune
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For some people, there’s a certain fear that comes along with public speaking. Blood rushes into your face. The eyes of the audience seem to be burning holes right through you. Your mouth might quiver. You might stutter. You might say “um” too much.

But there’s also a rush of adrenaline when you link those perfect words, when your story winds into that perfect conclusion, or when your presentation hits the nail on the head.

At least at Toastmasters, no matter how the speech goes, , you’ll always get an applause.

The public speaking group, which meets twice a month in South Lake Tahoe, aims to help people sharpen their public speaking skills. The group is open to anyone who’d like to improve their skills for any reason.

Each Toastmasters meeting revolves around three types of speaking: Formal speeches, evaluations of those speeches and impromptu talks, or “table topics.” There’s also a word of the day, for which speakers get extra points (which don’t actually mean anything) for using. At the end, the group assigns a new toastmaster for the next meeting.

“The toastmaster is like an emcee who makes sure there’s a flow to these meetings, that there’s transitions between all three of these,” said Dwayne Landenberger, a longtime member of the South Lake Tahoe club who also belongs to four other speaking clubs in the region.

Toastmasters International has thousands of clubs around the world and nearly 300,000 members. The South Lake Tahoe group usually ranges between six and 10 members, Landenberger said.

“It’s good to practice,” said member Frank Dixon. “It’s good to get in front of people and present.”

Toastmasters was first started in 1924. The group touts its 10-speech program as an effective way to improve public speaking.

That’s exactly why South Lake Tahoe member Allison Peeler joined three months ago, she said.

“I joined because of my new position,” Peeler said. “I have to get in front of people and speak. And it was terrifying.”

She’s now three speeches in and has already gotten better, though she still struggles with the impromptu speeches, she said.

After a few years in Toastmasters, club president Becky Andrus has gotten over a similar public speaking fear, she said after her Monday night speech.

“The first Toastmasters meeting I went to I would’ve snuck out if I could’ve,” Andrus said. “But I’d come with a friend so I had to stay. And I’m so glad I did.”


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