Toastmasters helps improve speech skills

— Mary Andre gave her fourth formal speech Friday as a member of the Toastmasters club. The speech, she said, was a sign of her improvement, a symbol of her increased confidence to speak in front of an audience.

"I've been shy a long, long time I'm still (shy)," she said. "For a shy person to be a good public speaker isn't necessarily an oxymoron."

Andre said she makes presentations to the Planning Commission as part of her job, and the commissioners expect her to present the information off the top of her head.

Andre said when she first began her job, she realized the importance of improving her public speaking skills.

"I saw the Toastmasters' board and said, 'I need it,'" she said.

It is easier, she said, for her to speak in front of the supportive Toastmasters group and finds that the club has helped alleviate some of her shyness and improved her confidence.

Francis Abate revived the Toastmasters group in Steamboat last February. Toastmasters had been active in Steamboat before, but the group had been discontinued.

Abate restarted the group in Steamboat as he had seen its positive benefits from his participation in a Toastmasters club in Maryland, where he previously lived.

He initially joined the group shortly after he began his career in sales in 1987 and recognized the boost his career would receive through better speaking skills.

"In a small town where people talk to a lot of people, I can't think of anyone who wouldn't benefit," Abate said.

Abate said he hopes the group grows a little more than its present 21 members so it can receive a charter from the international organization and be able to offer more community-orientated projects, such as youth outreach programs. The group has recently hosted a number of guest speakers from nonprofit sectors to help increase their awareness of programs offered in the community.

The main objective, he said, is to provide better community leaders through improved speaking, communication and listening skills.

Although this group has a strict sense of objective, members have a fun time achieving their goals.

Members of the group have a designated amount of speeches to be completed, all with different emphasis. Members of the group work at their own pace within the structure provided by the organization.

Every meeting has set positions to be filled, including a grammarian, timer and evaluators. Each speech is evaluated by another member of the group to help the speaker understand his or her strengths and weaknesses. The grammarian keeps track of the number of "ahs" and "ums" each person says, which results in a charge of a nickel for each offense.

To redeem the money lost, members can say the word of the day, which is selected and reported to the group at the beginning of the meeting.

The quick-witted speeches and interaction among members keeps most people on their toes.

Toastmasters meets weekly at 11:45 a.m. in the Alpenglow Room at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus. The Jan. 11 meeting will be in Bristol Hall Room 244.

Call Abate at 871-0319 for more information.

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