Toastmasters helps build self-confidence


Toastmasters helps build self-confidence

WHETHER YOU are an extrovert or an introvert, speaking in public, for professional or personal reasons, is a daunting task. The key is being prepared. The trick is finding a place that provides a warm and supportive atmosphere in which to learn and practice. That place is Toastmasters International.

Toastmasters was started in 1924 by Ralph C. Smedley, who was working for the YMCA in Bloomington, Illinois. He recognized a need for men to “learn how to speak, conduct meetings, plan programs and work on committees,” according to the Toastmasters website ( (Women weren’t officially admitted until 1973.) Since its founding, the organization has helped more than 4 million men and women become more confident in their speaking and leadership skills. Membership now exceeds 345,000, with more than 15,900 clubs in 142 countries.

Jim Key

Differerent reasons to join

Toastmasters members join for a variety of reasons.

Margaret Page (, a Costco member in British Columbia, was running a successful business when she was asked to speak at an international conference in Las Vegas, but she didn’t feel up to the task. She was left with the feeling ways to enhance her speaking skills and found a Toastmasters chapter nearby.

“It is a big step for many, many people to walk in the door of a Toastmasters club,” Page acknowledges. “It takes great courage. I found a tribe that was willing to support me in my growth.”

Fourteen years later, Page is international director for the organization. “I’m still growing and learning from the experience,” she says.

Her efforts with Toastmasters opened doors of opportunity, including hosting a radio program, moderating a federal debate and being a campaign manager in a federal election. It also led to speaking engagements in Japan and Europe.

“That simply would not have happened had I not walked through the Toastmasters’ doors,” she says.

Costco member Rochelle Rice, a Toastmasters Accredited Speaker, moved to New York to be a dancer. As her professional dancing career was winding down, she moved into the fitness arena and started speaking at conventions.

Josephine Lee

“I knew how to dance and move, and I knew how to speak, but Toastmasters brought it together for me,” she recalls. “Before Toastmasters, I was really challenged putting the sequence together. Toastmasters teaches you the basics: the opening of the speech, the body of a speech—which usually includes one to three bullets points—and the closing of the speech. Whether you are giving a toast at a wedding, whether you’re doing a eulogy or giving a presentation for the company, that’ll tie up an incredible speech.”

Josephine Lee, a Costco member in Southern California, majored in communications in college and thought Toastmasters would be fun and could help to continue her education. But she found it was much more.

“Toastmasters has provided [me with] so much more than just communication education,” she says. “It provided a community of like-minded people, and it also helps me a lot with my business [].”

Costco member Jim Key ( has a 30-year background in information technology in Texas, but Toastmasters gave him an additional path. He recalls seeing noted speakers Zig Ziglar and Les Brown at a couple of business conventions and thought speaking was something he wanted to try. He reached out to both.

“They said, ‘Don’t do anything in the speaking business at all until you polish your presentation skills.’ They each gave me a list of different recommendations, and one of the common ones was Toastmasters International,” Key recalls. “Well, when two people who are on top of the mountain that you want to climb give you the same recommendation, and there’s nothing in it for them, it’s probably fairly good advice to take.”

Rochelle Rice

Rising to the occasion

“A lot of people have this paralyzing stage fright when it comes to being on a stage, speaking before an audience, and I never really had that,” Key says. “My father was a minister, so I was accustomed to seeing someone on stage speaking before people. But what I didn’t have were good content-preparation abilities, organization and making things concise but memorable. Toastmasters gave me a great arena where I could work on those skills and become more and more proficient over time.”

Key mastered those skills, and on August 23, 2003, he became the 2003 World Champion of Public Speaking at the Toastmasters International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia (the 2017 Toastmasters International Convention takes place from August 23 to 26 in Vancouver, British Columbia). He has been a popular professional speaker ever since.

“[Toastmasters] also created for me a network of contacts who have largely become very good friends around the world, because there are Toastmasters organizations scattered all over the United States and all over the globe,” he adds.

Lee, who won third place at the World Champions of Public Speaking at last year’s Toastmasters convention, attributes to Toastmasters another skill that has helped in her business life.

“Overall, it gives me confidence,” she says. “Confidence is very important in communication, because when you’re communicating with your employees, your customers or potential customers, you have to have confidence in order to show them that you trust yourself and you trust your judgment, and that way you can gain their trust as well.”

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Toastmasters Korea revels in spirit of community


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Korea Toastmasters held their annual fall conference at Seoul Women’s Plaza on Saturday.

About 200 people attended the meeting, the second national conference of the year for the Korean branch of the international leadership and communication skills-building organization.

After the semi-annual business meeting in the morning, there were presentations on how to enhance one’s leadership, improve body language when speaking and be a better evaluator.

Keynote speaker Cathrin Hatcher talked about the importance of identifying your aims and sticking to them at all times.

Hatcher had earlier held a session on color and the psychological impact of what you wear on the people around you. For example, brown projects efficiency and reliability, but does not give off an impression of authority or tenderness. By contrast, green is good for calming a charged situation or breaking bad news, but not for asserting yourself.

Toastmasters has grown quickly in Korea in recent years. The first club here was set up in 1991, but 11 have been added this year and 17 more are expecting to be chartered soon. One of them is a Japanese-English bilingual club, which Toastmasters Korea’s chairperson Kevin Parent believes is the only bilingual club where both languages are foreign.

Although it’s common for Toastmasters to be in English, especially in Asia, Parent says the level of participation from expats here is unusual ― most clubs in the region are dominated by people from the same country, but in Korea about a third of members are expats, he says.

Fiona Haysom, Parent’s predecessor and a member of Busan Toastmasters, said many people joined to network, and that it was a good way of finding contacts and information when travelling to new places.

Later there was a “table topic” speech competition in which the subject was not revealed until immediately before each contestant spoke, and a evaluation competition, in which contestants aimed to give the best appraisal of an example speech.

The competitions are meant to appraise skills leant in the Toastmasters education program, which begins with ten basic steps that lead to approval as a “competent communicator.” Members then move on to more specialized programs, such as humorous or business presentations.

While the table topic is improvised, impromptu speeches are part of what Toastmasters teaches.

“There should be some sort of structure. Part of what you learn is how to structure your impromptu speeches. So you can think of a beginning a middle and an end to it,” says Parent. “Some people make it sound like they actually wrote it.

“It’s a skill that you develop, and it comes in handy in job interviews and things like that.”

The evaluations carried a lot of positive remarks, but were not short of criticism. Haysom said that newer members would be treated more gently. A distinguished Toastmaster ― the organization’s highest qualification ― Haysom said she was starting the program again from scratch, but expected to be scrutinized much more than when she did it the first time.

It might sound intimidating to have your presentation evaluated in front of an audience, even if an individual Toastmasters club has a much smaller audience. But Michael Jones, Toastmasters Korea’s public relations officer, says there is a positive atmosphere.

“They’re going to clap no matter what, they’re going to encourage you no matter what. It’s the most supportive environment possible,” he says. “No real world environment is going to clap you if you do a bad job.”

Parent agrees. He says Toastmasters is a great place to mess up, and gives good opportunities to practice leadership and speaking and get evaluated on it.

He explains that excessive criticism is very rare. While he hears every couple of years of someone giving upsetting remarks, such people soon leave because they don’t fit in.

But positive remarks are as much for the benefit of the audience as anything else.

“The good points don’t really need to be reinforced. People with good points, you just let them know what they are,” explains Parent.

“When you are evaluating someone, partly it’s to evaluate your speech, for example, but it’s also for everyone else ― what can we learn from what he did so well.”

By Paul Kerry (

Korea Toastmasters to hold fall conference


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The Korea Toastmasters Fall National Conference 2011 will convene on Nov. 5 at Seoul Women’s Plaza in Dongjak-gu.

The conference will feature speech contests, educational workshops and the executive meeting for Toastmasters’ Korea District.

More than 300 people are expected to attend the 2011 Fall Conference.

Cathrine Hatcher, a professional speaker and image communications expert based in Texas, will attend the conference to deliver the keynote speech, which will focus on non-verbal communication.

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization through which people can develop communication and leadership skills. Founded in 1924, Toastmasters has grown to have nearly 270,000 members in more than 13,000 clubs in 116 countries.

Korea Toastmasters became a territorial council last year. Of 33 chartered clubs in Korea, 16 belong to Seoul. There are another 13 unchartered clubs aiming to be chartered.

Two Korean-language Toastmasters were opened in Daejeon (Sejong Masters) and Seoul (Mashinan). A Korean-English bilingual club also been chartered, and a Japanese-English club is expected to be approved soon.

Since the Korea clubs formed a territorial council last year, they are required to hold two conferences every year. The spring conference was held in May in Busan.

To register for the national conference or find more information, visit

By Paul Kerry (