Toasting the Masters

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By: Richard Leeds –

Speaking in front of a large crowd is the biggest fear among Americans, but a group which meets at Rocky Mountain College is dedicated to not only helping people get over this fear, but to helping them become top-notch speakers.

The Trailhead Toastmasters Club, which senior Dan Parod and debate coach Shelby Jo Long-Hammond helped bring to Rocky’s campus in May of 2014, is a community group that meets to practice the skill of public speaking. Toastmasters, an organization which has been around since 1924, has always striven for excellence in communication, leadership, and public speaking.

Members receive a manual containing a great number of speeches they must work on and deliver in front of the other members of the club. Once they have completed the speeches outlined in the manual, they graduate to a manual of advanced speeches that keeps them growing in their ability to address a group.

Toastmasters meetings are highly organized. Each scheduled speaker receives a spoken evaluation in front of the club from another member. A member also evaluates each meeting. This evaluation is, of course, delivered orally in front of the club. Each speaker is timed, which allows the group to end their meetings promptly after one hour.

Toastmasters improves members’ ability to think quickly while still speaking clearly. Every meeting includes Table Talks in which one person gives a topic to various speakers, one at a time. The speakers then deliver a speech of one or two minutes, either serious or humorous in tone. The speakers are not limited to fact, which allows them to create vivid images for the listening crowd. The speakers are judged not on content as much as on their ability to deliver an exciting speech.

Bob Rightmire, a 38-year member of Toastmasters and founder of various Toastmasters clubs in the Billings area, talked of his excitement at having the Trailhead Toastmasters Club meet on the Rocky Mountain College campus. He said that the club welcomes guests to come and see how the meetings work.

They are always looking for “people to come in and be exposed to the program,” Rightmire said. He added that people in this highly competitive and world need all the skills they can get in order to compete.

In his time with the Toastmasters organization, Rightmire has seen the wonders the club can make, he said. He said that he has seen “people deciding to get master’s degrees, and doing it. People deciding to become self-employed, and doing it,” and even, “a couple getting their high school diploma[s] at age sixty-five.”

Rightmire added that he’s seen things that “truly bring a tear to [his] eye.”

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