Toastmasters president speaks about benefits

NILES — While some may believe that the Toastmasters clubs are only about gaining experience in public speaking, Doug Knapman, the president of Four Flags Toastmasters said he wants to set the record straight.

“Toastmasters gives its members a chance for expanding and practicing leadership,” Knapman said. “Giving and receiving evaluations for our speeches brings positive reinforcement and constructive criticism.”

Knapman said he feels the evaluation part of the program is key and something that makes Toastmasters unique, because after the speaker gives a speech, another member will give an evaluation of it, and the speaker sits and listens.

Doug Knapman

“This is in an environment where everyone wants you to succeed. It’s a built-in process,” Knapman said.

At Toastmasters, a grammarian counts the number of times a speaker says “um” or “ah,” and marks down other odd grammar errors of public speaking.

“You convey your ideas without ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing.’ This helps reinforce your patterns of speech, because you start to catch your own speaking errors before you say them,” Knapman said.

Another goal of the club is to develop leadership, Knapman said. Additionally, speakers are taught to communicate their information in a concise and timely manner and each speech is timed.

Developing leadership skills develops confidence, Knapman said.

Those who participate in Toastmasters also learn how to think on their feet during a portion of the regular meetings, called Table Topics.

“The Table Topics, a two-minute off-the-cuff speech on random topics, helps you learn to speak off the top of your head,” Knapman said.  “You practice conveying your ideas without monopolizing the conversation.”

Toastmasters also get the chance to be a “Wordmaster.”

“We learn a new word every meeting, because it is important to expand a person’s vocabulary. Language is the tool for your thoughts,” Knapman said. “With a better vocabulary, you expand the way you can think. And we have the position of ‘Jokemaster’ at every meeting, because it reinforces that humor is part of life and a big part of public speaking. You learn to use humor without offending people.”

The objective of using humor helps the audience to relax and relate to the speaker, Knapman said.

Lastly, Knapman feels leadership is made in the pronounced “diversity” of Toastmasters clubs.

“It expands your horizons as you learn from people you would not normally encounter,” Knapman said. “It gives you new perspectives from people who have life experiences from all over the world. It gives you diverse perspectives on ethics and life.”

Those who would like to improve their communication and/or leadership skills, are invited to visit Four Flags Toastmasters Club at one of its meetings. Meetings take place at 6 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of the month or 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. every Thursday, at the Niles Township Hall on Bell Road.

Toastmasters welcomes new members and encourages people in the greater Niles area to join. For more information email FourFlagsToastmasters@gmail.com. or go to the web site toastmastersclubs.org.

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