Speaking publicly can strike fear in many folks, but the local Toastmasters group provides a supportive setting to help conquer those fears and bolster confidence.
“There was previously a Toastmasters club in Stettler that closed down before my time,” said member Mike Bertin.
“The current club was my initiative. I had already been a Toastmasters member with a club in Red Deer (I’m still a member there) and was convinced that a Toastmasters club could be a benefit to Stettler and area as well.,” he added.
“I made a public announcement that I intended to start a club, and with the support of Aubrey Brown, then director of the Board of Trade, I began holding meetings in one of the rooms at the Board of Trade office. We had a brisk early interest, and were able to assemble a small and enthusiastic group.”
Of course, memberships rise and fall over time and the group experienced that as well.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to attract replacements for those who have moved on. With support from the Stettler Library we moved to the SRC Boardroom in 2019 – a more public venue with greater traffic flow. That’s where we currently meet.”
Bertin noted that he joined Toastmasters originally to bolster his inter-personal skills.
“I had difficulty being personable and initiating or carrying a conversation,” he explained. “I found help with that. Gaining insight into people, and their expectations, has allowed me to build personal confidence and to focus on the other person rather than my own discomfort.”
Bertin added that the benefits to signing up with Toastmasters are extensive.
“One of the great benefits is that it’s available and beneficial to everyone. It’s not just for one class of people. And everyone, at one time or another, will be asked to say something in front of a group,” he said. “Most of us fear that and stumble when we do it. But, here’s the thing – though there are numerous skills and techniques involved in communication, it’s not primarily about those things. It’s about building confidence.
“It’s about overcoming fears. And, it’s also about a safe environment to do that – guided by learning techniques and building skills.”
Bertin added that it’s also a great place to practice.
“Here you won’t ruin anyone’s wedding reception. Here you won’t use the wrong words at a funeral. Here, you won’t freeze in front of the executive board,” he said.
“Some have said that Toastmasters is a great place to fail! It’s safe – and failure is a great teacher. We work through the failures before they matter.”
Indeed. There is no question that public speaking is nerve-wracking for many people.
“I think it’s the result of our innate reticence to be vulnerable,” explained Bertin. “It’s not so much the public speaking part – we all do that every day. It’s the knowledge that everyone’s attention will be on us.”
Then there are anxieties over what people are thinking about our appearances or about knowing what to say.
“Will we humiliate ourselves in front of a crowd? Toastmasters allows us to practice, to understand audiences, to prepare for those audiences and to deliver meaningful, engaging messages.”
Headquartered in Englewood, Colo., the organization’s international membership is more than 364,000 in more than 16,200 clubs in 145 countries.
According to Toastmasters International, since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people from diverse backgrounds become more confident speakers, communicators, and leaders.
For Bertin, having landed ‘Distinguished Toastmaster’ is indeed the pinnacle of achievement in the Toastmasters program.
“I earned my DTM in early 2017. So, why continue? For me it’s the pleasure of seeing others grow and develop,” he said.
“I’ve also met people from all walks of life, with a variety of needs, who have come to Toastmasters and learned how to move forward in the many facets of their lives,” he noted. “After all, people use public speaking skills not only in the corporate boardroom, but at weddings, funerals, graduations, community events, in our churches and public service organizations,” he said.
”And let’s not forget that communication skills are vital to leadership. Do you lead a team of some sort? These skills are so transferable. We learn to communicate effectively and gain the confidence to lead! I enjoy seeing all of that happen. And besides… it’s fun!”
Stettler Toastmasters meets on the first and third Thursday of each month from 7-8:30 p.m. at the SRC Boardroom.
For more information, contact Mike Bertin at 403-740-0770.
“Visitors are always welcome.”