Published June 21, 2011
Volume 19, Number 6

Toastmasters Move up the Ranks While Polishing Speaking Skills 

Invaluable in almost any situation, public speaking and leadership skills are especially important in business. For many individuals, however, proficiency in these areas does not come naturally, even with years of higher education and experience. This is one of the drivers behind the perennial popularity of Toastmasters International, the organization that provides the opportunity to acquire and polish these abilities in a comfortable, supportive environment.

Since its founding in 1924, Toastmasters has grown to comprise more than 12,500 clubs with over 260,000 members in 113 countries around the globe. The nonprofit offers multiple training modules that help members develop skills in all facets of verbal communication, from speaking to listening to giving feedback. Taking on certain jobs during meetings and at the organizational level also fosters the skills of decision-making, delegating, and mentoring, all requisites of an effective leader.

A member of the Hacienda Park group for the past five years, Christina Morales is progressing through the organizational hierarchy, following Toastmasters’ leadership track. From president of the local club in 2009, last year she took over as area governor. Currently she is wrapping up a term as division governor, looking out over a bigger picture.

As an area governor, she represented the organization to six different clubs, a role that entailed regular visits and hands-on assistance. Her aim was to encourage the clubs to meet their goals, primarily attaining the rank of Distinguished Club. With her own move up the ladder, Morales now helps coach four other area governors so they can meet parallel objectives.

With its learn-by-doing approach, the local club enjoys a steady—and diverse—membership. “There is not one ‘type’ of person who joins Toastmasters,” she comments. The commonality is having “an interest in trying to better oneself.” Members of the Hacienda club represent a panoply of professions, from engineers, sales people, and tax accountants to teachers and realtors, recent college grads and military veterans.

Recently, member Melissa Pedersen, with less than six months in the group, competed at the Division level in the impromptu-speaking event, a “very difficult” category, according to Morales. Peterson had just a few seconds to compose a two-minute response to a question posed on the spot. In keeping with the theme of the conference, Everyday Heroes, the question Peterson fielded was, “What makes me a hero?”

“It was really challenging,” Morales continues. “People don’t usually think of themselves as heroes,” she says, but there is great value in trying to do one’s best, a common goal of the organization. Peterson delivered her impromptu reply to the 300 Toastmasters attending the conference, which happened to be held at the U.S.S. Hornet, “an appropriate place to talk about heroes,” Morales notes. While Peterson did not go further in the contest, “she said it was an amazing experience to participate and really encourages others to do the same, especially if they had never done it before.”

The Hacienda Park Toastmasters Club gets together at noon on Thursdays in the conference room at 4305 Hacienda Drive. Pleasanton has seven Toastmaster clubs, four of which are company-specific. For the list of open clubs, visit www.toastmasters.org and enter a local zip code. For local information, contact Morales at morales_christina@sbcglobal.net.


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