Greetings happy people!!
Eighty five years ago in the basement of a YMCA in Santa Ana, California, a man by the name of Ralph Smedley started a club that was designed to help young men with their public speaking skills. They had a dinner-type setting where at the end of each presentation, they would toast their glasses to show that a good job was done. This was were they got the name "Toastmasters" from.
As the years passed by, more clubs like this started popping up all over the western part of the United States. It officially became Toastmasters International when a club opened up in British Columbia, Canada. From the idea of one man, there are now clubs in more than 90+ countries with nearly 300,000 members and over 12,000 clubs all over the world!! From California to Australia to even Iraq, you can walk into a Toastmasters meeting with that same welcoming spirit that was embodied back in 1924.
For the 2008-2009 year, I have served as the Division D Governor of this organization. That means that out of the 52 clubs in the Las Vegas Valley, I manageD 27 of them. From Nellis AFB to Summerlin, from Downtown Las Vegas to the Strip, from Henderson all the way down to Laughlin-Bullhead City, I can honestly say that of all the clubs I have been to in my Division, you can really meet some friendly people that are quite welcoming!!
My first experience with this organization started back in early Fall of 1995. I was a 19 year old Civil Engineering student attending UNLV. At the time, I had troubles speaking in front of people. I would stutter, stammer, say "Ah" a lot, and have thoughts in my head that were a rambling mess. My professor Herbert Wells recommended that I take a Speechcraft session sponsored by Toastmasters International. Speechcraft was a eight week course that allowed people to experience different roles within a Toastmasters meeting. From day one of that speechcraft session, I fell in love with that organization. Heck, I joined two more sessions before graduating with a B.S. degree in 1999.
During my time in college, I found it easy to give term presentations, and I was usually chosen to talk about different portions of my engineering projects. Without Speechcraft, I really would not know where I would have gone.
Three years later in 2002, I rejoined Toastmasters by way of Starmasters Toastmasters. Back then they met at the YMCA on Meadows Lane and Valley View. It was then when my passion for public speaking was rekindled!! I got a chance to improve on my public speaking skills and take on a leadership roles!! That was where I held my first club officer position of Secretary.
From that leadership role, I never looked back as I took on more leadership positions. I became a VP Membership, VP Education, and then up to President!! In the Spring of 2005, I decided that I want to spread my leadership expertise by serving as an Area Governor. In order for everyone to understand, an Area Governor manages at least 4-5 clubs within a Division. I served as an Area Governor to four awesome clubs:
New Life Trailblazers (a church club),
Starmasters (my home club),
To Your Health (a club that meets at the Southern Nevada Health District), and
Vocal Vegans (a club that meets at the Clark County Government Center).
While each of these clubs have their own different flavor, they all have the same friendly people and demonstrated the spirit that Ralph Smedley embellished when he started this organization.
I have served as an Area Governor to these four clubs for two consecutive years: 2005-2006 (with Distinguished honors) and 2006-2007 (with Select Distinguished honors). Serving as an Area Governor allowed me to meet with different people outside of my club and establish a great friendship bond that will last for a very long time.
Serving as a Division Governor for the 2008-2009 year, I helped the Division become President's Distinguished (the highest honor any Division can get worldwide)!!
Another benefit of joining Toastmasters are the contests. Here in District 33 Toastmasters (which covers the different clubs in southern Nevada and central California), they have two different contest seasons: the Fall Contest season (Evaluation and Humorous Speech Contest) and the Spring Contest season (Tall Tales and International Speech Contest). While the Evaluation, Humorous, and Tall Tales Contest would reach up to District level competition, the International Speech contest would go all the way up to the International level competition - known as the World Championship of Public Speaking. While I personally have not gotten that high up the level, I have been to this type of competition before in Phoenix, Arizona to see my good friend Bryant Pergerson compete as one of the 10 finalists from all over the world. He did a fantastic job and I like many Las Vegas Toastmasters was proud of him that he made it to this level!! That really put a smile to my face.
As for my own competition repetoire, I only manage to get as high as the Division level back in 2004 - which was still pretty good. I had the chance of competing against some great speakers: Colin, Cheryl, Linda, and Ralph. Eventhough I did not win this contest, I felt that I won a lot of people's respect. It was a great experience and that is something that I will truly cherish for as long as I live.
As you can tell by my own personal experiences, joining Toastmasters would be a great investment. Not only for those that would like to improve their public speaking and leadership skills, but for also creating new friends...travelling to different places, and just having a fantastic time at each meeting. For me, it has and always will be a privilege to join an organization like this. If anyone would like to know more about Toastmasters, please check out the website at http://www.toastmasters.org/
It would be one privileged investment to take part of. Once you get started, remember to learn as much as you can, enjoy the ride, and just have fun with the experiences!!
That is all I have for now. Thank you for your time and attention!!
Jesse Oakley I-I-I, DTM