By GABRIELLA JARAMILLO
MARIETTA, Ga. — People just can`t stop talking. They basically talk all the time and everywhere. But if you tell them to talk to an audience or deliver a speech, they might just stop. Doing that might be too scary.
Cheryl Boncimino and Judy Sheppard are each a member of one of the weekly clubs of Toastmasters International in Marietta. Toastmasters International is a nonprofit organization that brings people together and helps them develop their communication and leadership skills. Boncimino and Sheppard are just a couple of thousands of members around the world who are developing these skills that can be valuable to everyone.
Toastmasters club meetings aren`t all exact, but they all have a few things in common such as speeches being delivered, meeting roles, a supportive and energetic learning experience and a schedule to follow. Some meeting roles include toastmaster, timer, evaluator, grammarian and ah-counter.
Sheppard, a fiscal officer, has been a member of the Toastmasters at the Square for about 18 years. She said she originally just joined the club to support her co-worker who was trying to get the club started but eventually realized she appreciated it and wanted to keep going.
“I was surprised to find [out] how much I enjoyed Toastmasters once I became a member,” Sheppard said. “Every member is motivated to become a better speaker, leader or both . . . I enjoy being around motivated people who are willing to work at improving their skills. They take responsibility for taking steps to work on their personal skills rather than accepting that they can’t do anything about being shy or nervous about speaking.”
Sheppard said being in the club offers many benefits such as getting many opportunities to practice your speaking, increasing confidence, becoming a better listener, getting to know others, learning how to give positive feedback, learning how to lead meetings, becoming a better team member and getting the opportunity to mentor or be mentored.
Since joining the club, Sheppard said she has given around 30 speeches, won seven awards, performed every type of meeting role, held a position almost every year, served on committees and mentored. She also said she has overcome her fear of speaking to an audience, learned to cope with nerves and become more self-assured and outgoing.
Boncimino, a real estate agent, has been involved with Toastmasters for about three years and currently goes to the Knowledge Club Toastmasters. She said she heard of Toastmasters a lot from her background in theater and production but thought it sounded boring and was just for shy people. But eventually she decided to go and had a good experience. She said she loved how the people there came from various professions and how supportive and energetic everyone and the meeting was.
“I was hooked after the first meeting.”
Since joining Toastmasters, Boncimino said she has delivered around 25 to 30 speeches, has performed every single meeting role, has significantly improved her communication by being more effective and has learned how to inspire and motivate people.
“Every time I speak to people I encourage them [to go] because Toastmasters is leadership skills development, communication skills development, professional networking and friendship and community all rolled into one . . . I talk about it all the time.”
Even though some people might be too scared to talk to an audience or deliver a speech, some aren’t. The ones who aren`t were either never scared to begin with or somehow overcame their fear. Maybe they decided to try out a Toastmasters club. Maybe they kept going and kept practicing. And just maybe, that helped them overcome their fear, and they eventually became pretty good.