TWIN FALLS — If you have ever wanted to improve your public speaking skills, now is a good time to join Toastmasters.
Because joining is as easy as logging onto your computer.
Toastmasters clubs around the world — including Twin Falls Toastmasters Club 149 — are holding online meetings because of COVID-19.
In September, Toastmasters held its international conference (originally to be held in Paris) completely online. Toastmasters International has 364,000 members in 16,200 clubs in 145 countries.
Twin Falls’ club has 15 members and celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.
Why join? Club members say the benefits include improving your public speaking, communication skills and building leadership skills.
It is also a good way to connect with others, even at a distance.
“Our Toastmasters meetings have been the highlight of my week for over 25 years,” club secretary Donna Erickson said in an email. “I love the stimulation, positive atmosphere and camaraderie. We have become good friends, and we enjoy mentoring our new members so they can achieve their goals.”
Club members say there are pros and cons to virtual meetings.
“The most important advantage currently is being able to have several members living outside of the area who regularly participate in our virtual meetings,” the club wrote in an email. “Many members also appreciate being able to save commute time. Meeting virtually also makes it possible for any of us to visit clubs most anywhere and to enjoy visitors from other clubs as well. This summer we had visitors from three eastern states and Canada.”
New members can access an online curriculum called Pathways. The curriculum helps members develop and assess their skills, identify their goals and evaluate their progress. New members also have the opportunity to work with a mentor, who is a seasoned Toastmaster.
“The focus of the mentoring program is on positive encouragement, so it’s safe to take risks, to make mistakes, to learn, to change and to grow,” the club said. “Evaluation of self and by others provides tremendous insights to improvement.”
Mike Porter, vice-president of membership, said in an email that he feels that the mentoring program is a major strength of the organization.
“The guidance and support given by mentors certainly enhances one’s growth and self-assurance,” Porter said. “The mentors know the ropes and help newcomers quickly get on board with learning club protocols and members’ responsibilities.”
The Twin Falls club plans to switch to hybrid meetings (face-to-face along with providing Zoom access) when it is safe to resume meeting face-to-face.
How often do Toastmasters meet?
The Twin Falls club meets every Wednesday from 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. over Zoom. They also participate in special training sessions, seminars, speech contests, conventions and meetings at the local, division and district levels, (also on Zoom).
What is the age range of the group?
Club members range in age from 30 to 80. Members can be as young as 18.
How does one become a member of Toastmasters?
Interested individuals are invited to visit the club’s weekly Zoom meeting. Access to Zoom is available by contacting our club president David Hanna at 208-543-5123 or vice-president of education Anita Janis at 208-313-5728. Those interested in joining should plan to visit at least one meeting. New members have to complete an application and submit semi-annual dues. New member dues are $48 for six months plus a one-time $20 new member fee.
“For the cost of membership, there is no greater value to becoming a more confident speaker and a more competent leader,” club treasurer Valdon Hancock said.