By Sam Wildow
TROY — Miami County Toastmasters, a non-profit, educational club focused on teaching public speaking skills, is holding an open house for the community and interested new members on Thursday, Aug. 26, from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center.
“We’re having an open house because we want to build up our club,” said Olive Wagar, president of Miami County Toastmasters. They were previously meeting virtually through Zoom last year and earlier this year, but they have now returned to meeting in person at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, where they have held meetings since the Miami County chapter of Toastmasters formed in 2016.
Toastmasters International has been promoting public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs since 1924. The mission is to empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. The organization currently has over 300,000 members in 149 countries with 15,800 clubs.
In 2016, Wagar and a number of other local Toastmasters club members met at other local Toastmasters clubs when they realized they were from Troy. Together, they formed this chapter, which is the only one in Miami County.
Wagar said public speaking is a common fear, adding, “We want to help people get past their fears so they can experience personal success and professional success.”
“Having the confidence to stand up and speak up definitely gives any person in the workplace a competitive advantage,” Wagar said. She said Miami County Toastmasters can also help people become better leaders, and the group is also open to people who are retired but still life-long learners.
Additionally, they want to help people improve their communication skills through helping club members also be better at thinking, listening, and evaluating what they say and what others say.
“It’s really easy to say things without thinking and have unintended consequences,” Wagar said.
Miami County Toastmasters uses an online program called Pathways, which is a self-paced education program, to go through 14 projects where club members will give speeches between five and seven minutes long. Other club members will give constructive feedback, and then they will use that advice to improve their next speech.
“It’s like a learning laboratory,” Wagar said.
They also practice having to speak on a topic at a moment’s notice to practice their on-the-spot communication skills, such as for networking events.
“That’s a skill that can be learned,” Wagar said. “All of us are life-long learners … I can see that having better communication skills is going to help me in my work.”
Wagar is a small business owner, and her initial motivation to get involved in Toastmasters was to improve her public speaking skills so she could speak about her business at local libraries and other community clubs. She then found the atmosphere at Toastmasters events to be friendly, supportive, and positive.
“We are there to help each other grow, and we want every person in our club to be successful,” Wagar said.
The dues for club members is $45 for six months, which Wagar said includes 12 club meetings. There is also a one-time $20 membership fee.
“We are offering a $5 giftcard to anybody who joins in August and September,” Wagar said.
She noted there are also corporate Toastmasters clubs, such as at Emerson, Crown, and Assurance. Miami County Toastmasters is open to everyone.
“We are a community club, which means anybody in the community is welcome,” Wagar said.
The Miami County Toastmasters meets regularly on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, located at 301 W. Main Street in Troy, from 7 to 8 p.m.
For more information about Miami County Toastmasters, visit miamicounty.toastmastersclubs.org.