A lot of people join Toastmasters to get over a paralyzing fear of public speaking.
The mere thought of standing up in front of a crowd can make their palms sweat, heartbeats thunder and voices crack and rise. And so they step through the doors to a meeting, trembling fear held tightly in check, to overcome the challenge of oration.
And while Toastmasters is a spectacular and supportive venue to overcome that fear, it’s also an effective tool and training ground for the next step. Once the fear is conquered, Toastmasters helps its members hone the craft and art of speaking.
It’s that practice that has kept Victor Lindal coming back for 40 years.
“I was Canada’s national women’s volleyball coach and a high school teacher, so I didn’t have trouble with public speaking,” says Lindal, currently a member of the Royal Roads Toastmasters. “I wanted to learn how to organize a speech.”
The 77-year-old learned how to write an intriguing introduction, how to structure his talking points and how to wrap everything up with an impassioned call to action.
The Toastmasters family helped him continually strengthen his skills, and in 1980, Lindal made it to the worldwide public speaking competition as one of the top nine speakers globally.
On a less international, but no less influential scale, Goldstream Toastmasters member Fred Jones, a computer software salesman, says it’s entirely because of the group that he’s so involved with his community.
“I knew no one here, not one person, when I first arrived,” says Jones, who moved from Toronto in 2008. “I now know hundreds of people in Victoria and I’m also involved in other activities in the community, and it’s all because of Toastmasters.”
Not only did he find his business communication and professionalism improved, Jones’ relationships with family and friends also benefitted, as did his willingness to step outside his comfort zone.
“It helps you in many ways. It helps you help other people,” he says. “And it gives you a lot of self-confidence to do things you would probably never do.”
With members often sharing a lot about themselves and their lives, there’s a deep connection forged and members often know each other better than anyone else in their lives, says Jones.
Lindal, who’s worked as a personal coach for more than 20 years, says the key is to attend a meeting as a guest first. “Observe what goes on, see how you enjoy the people and what happens there,” he says. “As you get more comfortable with what’s going on, you gradually say, ‘I could join this club.’”
There are three Toastmasters groups on the West Shore: Goldstream, Royal Roads and the ‘Chosin Chatters’ in Metchosin.
Debby Volk has lived in Metchosin for years, but when she joined the ‘Chatters,’ she met a whole new group of people, she says.
“It’s a good group. Everyone is very friendly and supportive.” Volk joined just last year to finally put a long-held fear of public speaking to rest, and says she’s definitely making progress. “I’m still getting my feet wet.”
The Goldstream group meets Mondays at 7 p.m. in the second-floor boardroom of Westhills Arena, 1097 Langford Pkwy. Metchosin meets Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at the Metchosin Community House, 4430 Happy Valley Rd. Royal Roads meets Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in Hatley Castle. Guests are asked to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early to all meetings.
Membership and dues vary between the clubs.
For more information visit toastmasters.org.