Toastmasters improves communication and leadership

Vicki Simpson, Janet Carothers, Lindsay Fleming and Jeanne Zierhoffer at a Mint Hill Chamber of Commerce networking event.
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If you are interested in improving your communication and leadership skills, look no further than Mint Hill’s chapter of Toastmasters International.

Toastmasters International boasts over 350,000 members in over 130 countries worldwide, and the organization is growing every day.  About 230 of those clubs are right here in North Carolina. “We are an influential self-help organization,” says club secretary Vicki Simpson.  “There’s none other like us in the world!”

Fear of public speaking is common, and this is what most everyone knows about Toastmasters: it can help you improve your public speaking.  In reality, helping members to conquer their fears about speaking in public is only one part of Toastmasters’ leadership development program.  Toastmasters also coaches members on things like how to write a captivating speech, how to introduce a speaker, and how to plan and lead a meeting.

Simpson first got involved with Toastmasters thirteen years ago.  At the time, she found herself stuck in an unsatisfying administrative assistant position.  She wanted something different, but she wasn’t sure where to look or how to get there. At first, Simpson wasn’t sure Toastmasters could help her, but she quickly warmed to it.  “I was not afraid to be in front of people, but I found out I didn’t know how to write a speech,” says Simpson. “Once I got started, it was just fun!”

Toastmasters members work their way through a structured, self-paced program that involves prepared, timed speeches evaluated by another Toastmaster.  That’s how each meeting begins: with 2-3 prepared speakers and evaluations. Next, members move into “table topics,” quick, 1-2 minute answers to impromptu questions.  Simpson likens table topics to a job interview, where candidates need to speak intelligently and coherently on a variety of topics.

Simpson worked with a club located on Tyvola road for four years before starting a local club in Matthews.  Her club moved to Stallings briefly before settling in its current location in Mint Hill. Mint Hill’s Toastmasters currently meet at Blair Road United Methodist Church every Friday from 12:30 – 1:30.  

Simpson believes that Toastmasters truly has something to offer everyone.  Simpson has witnessed kids as young as five giving prepared speeches! Although kids can’t officially become Toastmasters members, even young children can answer table topics and learn the art of public speaking.  The club welcomes people from all walks of life: leaders feeling anxiety over making large group presentations, managers who need to make the perfect Power Point presentation, even salespeople and pastors.

Toastmasters’ $45.00 dues for 6 months includes getting started materials and access to the Toastmasters International web site.  If you’re interested in participating, contact Vicki at 704-995-0446 or visit their weekly meeting at Blair Road United Methodist Church.  

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her eight-year-old daughter Hannah and her six-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: