NEWMARKET -- On the first and third Wednesday of the month, a group of people meet at the Newmarket Public Library for their bi-monthly Toastmaster meeting.
Contrary to what the name implies, this group is not limited to learning how to deliver a Toast.
It is an organization operating internationally in which people can improve their public speaking, communication, meeting planning, and leadership skills.
The first club was founded by Ralph Smedley on Oct. 22, 1924, in Santa Ana, Calif.
Today it boasts 15,400 clubs with over 332,000 members in 135 countries.
Its projects are designed to help people learn the arts of speaking, listening and thinking.
The Court of Blarney group in Newmarket has over 30 active members with Jim Chapman serving his second term as club President.
One of the mandates of Toastmasters is to keep the meeting on time.
Each person speaking is allotted a certain amount of time, depending on the topic.
A typical speech is five to seven minutes long, a toast is generally one to two minutes, and an evaluation is two to three minutes.
Each speech concludes with the evaluator telling the speaker what they enjoyed about their speech and giving them a suggestion for improvement. It is a safe place for people who are shy in groups to get comfortable speaking up.
A favorite part of the meeting for many is ‘Table Topics.’ This is when each member is given a chance to speak impromptu about a given topic. It is a great way to learn how to think quickly on your feet.
This month the Court of Blarney is celebrating their 500th meeting.
The theme of the meeting was “The Power of Choices.” Two speakers were scheduled to speak, one explaining the Autism epidemic in North America. The other regaled in a Harry Potter story called “The Tale of Two Brothers.”
One important aspect of a typical Toastmaster meeting is that when a speaker has the floor everyone else listens, and you can hear a pin drop when people are giving their speeches.
You can feel the positive energy in the room during the entire meeting.
Everyone is there to listen and learn; to stretch themselves and grow.
Lynn Rae is a reporter and columnist with the Torch Online Media, as well as a freelance writer and keynote speaker. Visit her personal website at www.myjourneybacktomyself.ca