It was a day at church about 16 years ago that finally did it. Nancy Shatto stood up to make a general announcement and the former college debater suddenly felt terrified.
“I was scared to death standing up in front of all these people I already knew,” Shatto said. “I was kicking myself, but I was so nervous.”
Instead of resolving to never stand up in front of a crowd again, the Greenacres resident decided to join Toastmasters, and now she will represent Spokane at the World Championship of Public Speaking in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Aug. 24.
Shatto will compete against 101 other Toastmaster representatives from all over the world.
“But we all do our speeches in English,” Shatto said, “no matter where we are from.”
Shatto’s semifinal speech is based on the life of her father, and it’s a speech she’s presented a few times in competition. It’s also the one that qualified her for the world championship.
“My dad was one of those fix-it guys who was very good with his hands and always out there helping people,” Shatto said. “He was my inspiration.”
If she makes it to the final she must present a speech that she’s never used in competition before.
Shatto was recently named 2016 volunteer of the year at Airway Heights Correctional Center, where she facilitates a Toastmasters club for inmates.
“My final speech is about what it’s like to go behind bars,” Shatto said. “And about why it’s worth it to spend time rehabilitating people who are in jail.”
Shatto said it’s kind of funny that she of all people began Toastmasters because she was on the debate team both in high school and college.
“I married my college debate teammate,” Shatto said.
But she kind of fell out of public speaking practice over the years, she said. Shatto works in the information technology department of Washington Trust Bank, a job that doesn’t require a lot of public speaking.
“You just sort of forget, I guess,” Shatto said.
Toastmasters is an international nonprofit organization with the goal of providing a positive learning experience. Though the organization is known widely for its focus on public speaking, Shatto said Toastmasters is about much more.
“It improves your self-confidence, it’s about your listening skills, it’s about leadership,” Shatto said.
She added that Toastmasters has about 20 clubs in the Spokane and North Idaho area.
So does she still get nervous?
“Absolutely,” Shatto said with a laugh. “I don’t think that ever goes away, but by now hopefully I know how to channel it better.”