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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Toastmaster workshops focus on speeches, leadership

Korey Johnson, a new member of the Spokane Uptowners Toastmasters Club, gives his first “icebreaker” talk at a recent meeting. (Colin Mulvany)

Brooks Sackett, dressed in a coat and tie, greeted every person by name at the Spokane Uptowners Toastmasters Club on a recent Tuesday.

As the official greeter, he helped people relax. The more relaxed, the better the speech.

But Toastmasters isn’t just about speechmaking. To understand the organization’s wider scope, Toastmasters is doing a blitz of free Inland Northwest workshops starting Monday.

Toastmasters International, founded in 1924, boasts more than 270,000 members in 13,000 clubs in 116 countries. There are about two dozen clubs in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

The clubs provide leadership skills, networking opportunities and a blueprint for efficient meetings. If you’ve ever been held captive in a poorly run meeting, you’ll appreciate the Toastmasters blueprint.

To wit:

• Everything is timed. If you have seven minutes for a speech, an amber light goes on six minutes into the talk as warning. Red light, time’s up.

• Everyone has a role.

No one can hijack a meeting because roles are assigned. You either give speeches, evaluate them, run the meeting, greet the guests, give or moderate short talks called “table topics.”

• Feedback is immediate – and thorough.

You give a speech. An evaluator critiques it thoroughly. An “ah counter” – who counts unnecessary filler words – also gives feedback, as does a grammarian.

“This is a learning laboratory,” said Nancy Shatto, a former high school debater now involved with Toastmasters at the club and district levels.

• Everyone has your back.

The scourges of modern meetings – backbiting, posturing, grousing, mocking, texting – don’t exist at Toastmasters. The clubs have evolved into civility “safe houses.” And club members (who pay dues in their home clubs) can visit meetings throughout the world and network with people whose stories they hear – before, during and after the speeches.

Said Spokane Uptowners member Pam Beasley: “I’m a lifelong learner, and I never leave a meeting without having learned something.”

Added Shatto: “You learn not to be judgmental.”