CUMMING, Ga. — Public speaking may be terrifying to some, but to five local groups of Toastmasters, it’s a way of life.
The groups, including Community Voice Toastmasters, The Navigators, Toastmasters of Forsyth County, Siemens Alpha Speakers and Power Speakers Club joined together March 4 for the annual area contest.
The competitors competed in two events, including an international contest where they write a five to seven minute speech, and a table topics challenge, where contenders have to think on their feet to answer a question, according to Area Director Ira Margolis.
“These speeches will blow your mind with what they say and talk about,” he said.
Winners will move on to the division level which encompasses Roswell, Alpharetta and Cumming. The winners from these two contests were Rajan Kulkarni for the Cumming area International Speech Contest and Chris Harris for the table topics contest.
The skills taught from the club are important in everyday life, Margolis said.
The club teaches members how to speak better at their own pace. Members build up to public speaking contests after they master talking about themselves and are comfortable. Most members give a speech every two months or so. The rest of the time is spent listening and developing leadership skills.
But still there is often a misconception about what the group really does.
“It’s about not only public speaking, but leadership and speaking up in front of any group of people,” he said. “Everything is done in a friendly, fun environment. It’s not as serious as people think.”
Margolis joined the club eight years ago so he could become more comfortable speaking about work topics. When he would go on business trips, he often didn’t get to speak during presentations because he would talk too quickly or sound nervous.
“I would sometimes talk over their heads or not explain things well,” he said. “If it was a technical question, they’d let me answer that. But they had other people talk about the other general questions.”
He realized then he needed to learn how to communicate more effectively.
“It’s about getting your thoughts out clearly and slowly,” Margolis said. “It’s helped me get rid of the ‘ums’ and ‘ahs.’ It’s letting me speak my truth, essentially. We help people get out what they want to say. It doesn’t have to be public speaking. It’s just speaking in general.”
For information about the Toastmasters, visit toastmasters.org to find a club nearby.