Toastmasters looks to attract new members

Pembina Valley Toastmasters members Tim Penner, Mary-Lou Dueck, Martin Carson, Lloyd Giesbrecht and Ian Steppler. (LAUREN MACGILL/Winkler Times)

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By Lauren MacGill – A local group is hoping to gain a few more members and help people overcome their fear of public speaking.

Pembina Valley Toastmasters held an open house at Winkler Library on Oct. 22 to give people the chance to see what their group is all about.

President Martin Carson said the organization helps people improve on their public speaking by giving them more confidence and bettering their communication skills.

Carson said fear of public speaking is extremely common in people. “I’m no stranger to that either, especially for the first few meetings,” he said. “It’s very nerve-wracking to get up there in front of everybody and just be vulnerable in that way, but it becomes a lot easier and that’s one of the reasons to keep coming here, to get better at those kinds of things and be able to manage that fear a lot better.”

Carson got involved with the Toastmasters about a year ago after deciding the time was right to improve on his public speaking skills.

“I was familiar with Toastmasters from being back in university,” he said. “I knew of the organization but never joined, and those were skills that I thought I was kind of lacking in a little bit.”

Since joining, Carson said his confidence in expressing ideas in front of people has improved and he now uses fewer ‘crutch words.’

“I joined to get rid of some of the ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’,” he said. “Those are the kind of things that just knowing about them, you can start to reduce them and start to sound a bit more professional when you speak.”

The open house aimed to raise awareness of the group and hopefully bring some new members into the fold.

“Existing members get the benefit of helping them and teaching them some things and we learn some things,” he said. “It’s kind of a learning experience both ways in that regard.”

Right now the Pembina Valley Toastmasters have 10 members. Carson said a typical meeting runs like a board meeting, with members taking up different roles, which allows for impromptu speaking.

If a member wants, they can also bring a prepared speech. “Everything gets evaluated and those evaluations are all very encouraging,” Carson said. “They’re meant to get people comfortable and improving.”

Impromptu speeches, or table topics, run for about two minutes and prepared speeches can run for about five.

For those who couldn’t make it to their open house, Carson said to stop by one of their Tuesday meetings at the Winkler Library, which start at 5:45 p.m. “Come a little bit early and say hello,” he said. “You don’t have to speak, you can just see what we do for the first meeting or two and go from there.”

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