GREENVILLE — The Greenville Toastmasters Club held an open house Thursday evening to give Darke County residents an opportunity to learn more about the organization.
Toastmasters is an international group that focuses on instilling members with crucial public speaking, leadership, and argumentation skills. The organization has over 16,000 clubs and 350,000 members worldwide. Each member must progress through a series of speeches and other projects over the course of their membership in order to rise through the ranks of the organization.
Bob Farmer has been a member of Toastmasters for 11 years. He organized the Greenville open house event as part of a leadership project he must complete in order to reach the rank of Distinguished Toastmaster, the highest recognition the organization bestows.
“To me, it’s about having fun while learning,” Farmer said of his involvement with the group. “It’s taught me how to improve my grammar, how to get my point across effectively, and how to manage my time.”
His involvement with Toastmasters has also helped shape Farmer into a different kind of communicator, he said.
“As a speaker, I’ve transitioned from a preacher-type to a communicator-type,” Farmer said. “Before I joined Toastmasters, I worked with a seminar company, and the first thing people said after I spoke was ‘You talk like a preacher.’”
But techniques he’s learned through Toastmasters have helped Farmer learn to communicate with people in a more effective, personable sort of way.
“I’ve learned how to change my gestures and language,” Farmer said, “and how to be softer and more friendly in my presentation.”
Other members had similar stories about how Toastmasters has changed their lives.
“Just speaking in front of people,” said Ross Gruber, president of the Greenville Toastmasters Club. “I was never the type of person who could get up in front of a group of people. Being able to do that has been a huge benefit to me.”
Olivia Wagar, who oversees Greenville and four other clubs in the western Ohio region in her position as Area Director, expressed similar sentiments.
“Toastmasters has given me a sense of confidence when it comes to sharing my story,” Wagar said. “Everybody has a story, we have life experiences we want to share with others, but often we tend to hesitate. When you have confidence, you communicate better with your family, you’re a better employee, and you’re better at achieving your goals.”
Increased public speaking ability isn’t the only benefit of joining the organization, however.
“There’s a great camaraderie in Toastmasters,” said Wagar. “We encourage each other to win.”
Mike Staffan, who served as chairperson for Thursday’s event, echoed Wagar’s statements.
“I have several of what I call ‘2 a.m. friends’ because of Toastmasters,” Staffan said. “Those are people I can call up at two o’clock in the morning and know they’ll be there for me, no matter what.”
Staffan stressed that, even though the journey of going through Toastmasters can be a difficult one, in the end it will get you where you need to go.
“It’s not gonna feel good at times,” Staffan said, “but it’s like rock climbing. Once you learn to climb over those rocks, you end up going places you couldn’t have gone before.”
The Greenville Toastmasters Club meets the second and third Tuesday of each month in the Brick Room at Brethren Retirement Home.
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