When it comes to speaking, Jacqueline Howard is looking forward to seeing people become better at expressing their thoughts and stopping the “umms” and “ahhs” too.
Soaring Eagles, a new club of Toastmasters International, gathered Saturday at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Clinton. During a demonstration meeting presented by the Bronco Toastmasters and Cape Fear Toastmasters, attendees gained knowledge which benefits many people worldwide. Howard was instrumental in bringing the organization to the Sampson County general public.
“Sometimes people are afraid to speak, but once you come, you get more comfortable doing it,” Howard said. “That’s a goal I’m trying to do myself.”
The purpose of the nonprofit organization is to help members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills. Formed in 1924 and incorporated in 1932, its membership now included more than 330,000 members from 135 countries. Locally, Howard said Soaring Eagles Toastmasters can help people become better speakers on job interviews and during business meetings.
“A lot of people have to present to their employees,” Howard said. “If you can remove those things that are distractions in your conversation, I feel that everybody will benefit.”
LaTricia Smith, an area director, believes Toastmasters will be a great thing for Sampson County.
“They can grow professionally,” Smith said about individuals joining the group. “People don’t think about the individual conversations they have from day-to-day. Some people are really nervous by just having those one-on-one conversations. Toastmasters gives you that confidence to speak.”
Howard, presiding officer, was involved with replicating a meeting to give people a taste of what to expect during an actual Toastmaster’s meeting, where members are expected to speak on their feet.
David Lindquist, area director, said the turnout was one of the best he’d seen all year.
“I love the energy I’ve seen,” Lindquist said. “I think we had a lot of fun.”
Lindquist stressed the importance of building people who can speak and lead with confidence. He said it’s something needed in society, especially with people in leadership positions.
“The communities are better for it,” Lindquist said. “We’ve been at this since 1924 and it’s been good for the world that we’re turning out thousands and thousands of people every year who have these skills that you’re not going to learn anywhere else.”
He hopes other communities such as Sampson County benefit from Toastmasters as well.
Toastmasters member Donald Barnes will serve as a mentor for the Sampson County group.
“I look forward to it because I like helping people and sharing what God has blessed me with,” Barnes said. “Anything I have is theirs to help them be who they want to be.”
Barnes said it was interesting to see people from different backgrounds and ages interested in developing speaking skills. He noted that many people become complacent at different stages in life.
“I believe that as long as we’re alive we have the opportunity to grow and to develop and change to get better,” Barnes said. “It’s lifelong learning.”
His wife Rhonda Barnes thought about joining, but attending the Saturday member influenced her to take another step.
“I know I need growth and this one way to help with it,” Barnes said.
Josann John-Durante is one of many members growing through the organization. She served as the speaker during the meeting, which featured helpful evaluations of individuals making remarks in front of the audience.
“It’s an excellent club,” John-Durante said about being around professional speakers who also serve as mentors.
While speaking to club members during her allotted time, which lasted 5 to 7 minutes, John-Durante shared some of the hardships of her childhood and how she overcame issues such as depression or worrying where her next meal would come from.
“A champion is something that I didn’t believe in before because I didn’t believe that people could be champions,” John-Durante said.
But Toastmasters helped with changing her mindset.
“By me believing myself within and seeing dreams become reality, I fell into that category,” she said. “That was not just by waking up one morning and saying that I’m a champion. I had to believe within myself.”
Howard said the recently established Soaring Eagles Toastmasters will host meetings every second and fourth Saturday at 11 a.m. Membership includes a voting process of existing Toastmasters participants. For more information, contact Howard at 910-214-0763.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.