Anyone who’s afraid to speak to an audience, even after hearing the standby advice to “pretend the audience is wearing… (insert article of clothing or clothing-optional part here),” and it still doesn’t help with the speaking jitters, check out the Toastmasters website where “Every Toastmasters story starts with a single speech.”
Luckily, for aspiring speechmakers living in Missouri City, the time to be confident is now. A chartering ceremony on May 31 made Toastmasters official in Missouri City. An educational non-profit organization since 1924, Toastmasters International dedicates itself to empowering individuals to become more effective communicators, confident speakers and leaders. Membership exceeds 352,000, with more than 16,400 clubs in over 141 countries.
Keith Romaine, a longtime Toastmaster member, along with President Robert “Jobby” Johnson, felt that with four Toastmaster Clubs in neighboring Sugar Land, surely they could start another Toastmasters group in Missouri City – particularly in Sienna Plantation. The planning for the new charter took more than a year, with several meetings, requisite paperwork, plus the official start-up OK from Toastmasters International headquarters in Englewood, Colo.
Johnson, a 30-year member of Toastmasters, recalls first looking for a Toastmasters Club in the Show Me City.
“When I arrived, I was sure there was a Toastmasters Club for a city this size. When I checked on Toastmasters International, there were no clubs here,” he said.
He attended the Sweet Talkers Toastmasters Club in Sugar Land, yet it was always in his heart to start a club in Missouri City. Johnson credits a Christian songwriter, Matthew West, for spurring him into club starting action.
“I heard his song ‘Do Something’ and the lyrics which stood out were ‘if not now, then when?’” he said.
Johnson said membership is growing.
“People want to become more confident in their public speaking skills, and it’s probably what draws in the largest number of members in Toastmasters,” he said.
Once someone joins, Johnson said they find out quickly Toastmasters is not just about public speaking – it’s also about how to run meetings, how to lead a group, and how to provide effective feedback.
Over the years, Johnson knows many Toastmasters success stories.
“I’ve seen a person with social anxiety disorder be transformed into a confident dramatic speaker through this encouraging, supportive and friendly club environment. It’s my goal for the Missouri City Toastmasters Club to bring the transformative power of Toastmasters to this community,” he said.
Along with Johnson, Romaine recalled one new member story that still remains with him.
“A nice young man joined back in 2001, who had a stuttering problem. He wanted to join the club, and wanted to be able to communicate with people, but he was also having to work practicing his technique to reduce his amount of stuttering. He gave some inspirational speeches about his problem, and while working on these speeches, he attended meetings and gradually gained his confidence. He was really an inspiration. Within a year he was giving some of the best speeches we ever heard. He eventually started his own successful business,” Romaine said.
There’s a varying degree of social anxiety and shyness for a few new members, said Romaine, with some literally in tears at having to speak in front of people. He is confident Toastmasters can make everyone the speaker they were meant to be, citing Toastmasters credo about communication and promoting leadership among members.
He said he still is inspired by the quote from Helen Blanchard, the first female Toastmasters International President.
“If you get out of Toastmasters all you can get out of Toastmasters, you’ll never get out of Toastmasters.”
“I’m retired now and Toastmasters helped me in my career, and put me in a position to be successful as an engineering technical consultant; I’ve seen Toastmasters help a lot of other people, too. And it’ s a good way to get to know people,” Romaine said.
The new Toastmasters Club meets every Thursday from 7-8 p.m. at the Harvest United Methodist Church, 9029 Sienna Ranch Road in Missouri City. Meetings are open to the public.
For more information, go to their website at https://mcclub.toastmastersclubs.org or the Toastmasters site at www.toastmasters.org or follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.