Chris Gessele will openly admit it: public speaking gives him butterflies. “I feel the heart rate quicken. I start getting warm, start sweating a little,” he says.
That’s why he’s at another meeting of the Toastmasters.
“We’re the clapping-est organization you’ve ever seen in your life,” explains Greg Redekopp, the president of the Highnooners Toastmasters club in Bismarck. “We applaud everything people do. We learn from our mistakes, and we tell stories.”
Twice a month, the group gets together to sharpen their public speaking skills and battle those butterflies.
“You become more conscious of your filler words,” Gessele explains. “You learn to pause more instead of saying ‘ah’ or ‘um.'”
“I really like being able to not only practice my own speeches, but listening to others,” says Misty Curn, another member of the club. “I learn more from hearing other people’s speeches, their styles, what they’re talking about, their tone, their pitch.”
Members like Curn and Gessele are asked to speak off the cuff. They’re timed, and sometimes evaluated — but the meetings are anything but intimidating.
“When people join, they might be nervous, they might think they don’t have skills — but they always bring something to the club,” Redekopp says. “They become leaders immediately. Because somebody in the room says ‘I like what you did.'”
That’s why there’s so much clapping at a Toastmasters meeting: because the people in this room are celebrating one another and heading out into the world with newfound confidence.
“I am my worst critic, so I’m harder on myself than anyone else is,” Curn says. “So to hear someone else say ‘You did a great job’ is spectacular. It helps me to improve.”
“People enjoy learning! That’s why they’re here,” Redekopp says.
And it’s why the members of the Highnooners Toastmasters are all people you should know.
The club meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at Bismarck State College.
But there are more than ten Toastmasters clubs all over our region, on different days and at different times.
Click here to learn more, and find the club closest to you.