Share This Page

Toastmasters club helps members speak up

| Saturday, March 8, 2014, 1:47 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the North Journal
Fereshteh Palmer of Allison Park gives a speech in an attempt to inspire her audience Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, during a Beacon Toastmasters of Pittsburgh meeting at Berkeley Hills Lutheran Church in Ross Township.
Randy Jarosz | For the North Journal
Ann Walker of Pittsburgh gives a speech designed to entertain her audience Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, during a Beacon Toastmasters of Pittsburgh meeting at Berkeley Hills Lutheran Church in Ross Township.
Randy Jarosz | For the North Journal
Joe Arnold of Allison Park explains why a bulldog would be an important animal to be included on Noah's Ark while participating in a club exercise Feb. 1, 2014, during a Beacon Toastmasters of Pittsburgh meeting at Berkeley Hills Lutheran Church in Ross Township.

Don Michel used jokes, hand gestures and pop-culture references to tell a room full of Toastmasters about one of the most frightening days of his life — the day his twin sons were born prematurely.

“I had never felt so helpless,” said Michel, 45, of Adams Township, before he chronicled the outpouring of assistance his family received in their time of need before about 15 people at a recent meeting of the Cranberry High Noon Toastmasters Club.

Michel has crafted his public-speaking skills with Toastmasters for nearly five years and has earned the highest title, Distinguished Toastmaster.

Toastmasters International is a global organization that is made up of local clubs in which members practice public speaking and develop leadership skills. The organization is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.

Pittsburgh's northern suburbs is home to six public Toastmasters clubs — three in Cranberry and one each in Ross Township, Franklin Park and O'Hara Township.

Members generally gather weekly or twice a month to give short speeches. They are evaluated and critiqued by the other club members.

Members who aren't speaking during a Toastmasters meeting take on different roles to help those giving speeches.

Evaluators give feedback to speakers. Timers keep track of how long speeches run. Grammarians keep track of word use and verbal tics, such as “ums” and “likes.”

There are Toastmasters manuals on different speech styles or leadership skills. As members complete programs in the manuals, they earn titles such as Distinguished Toastmaster, Competent Communicator or Competent Leader.

The local clubs are in Toastmasters International's District 13, which encompasses southwestern Pennsylvania and parts of West Virginia and Ohio.

The district, for which Melissa McGavick of Cranberry is the lieutenant governor of education and training, is one of the fastest-growing districts in the country, she said. She attributed the uptick to an uncertain economy and competitive job market.

“More and more people are recognizing that communication and leadership are important for most jobs,” said McGavick, a Distinguished Toastmaster.

McGavick is a member of the ProMasters club in Cranberry, which is geared toward people with public-speaking experience; the Cranberry High Noon club and the Cranberry Area Toastmasters. She owns her own company, McGavick Interactive Training, which that offers employee training for businesses and schools.

Michel, a chemical engineer with Westinghouse, participates in the Cranberry High Noon club and Westinghouse's corporate club.

He plans to speak in a Toastmasters speaking competition this spring that eventually could lead him from his club in Cranberry to the Toastmasters International Convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to compete against speakers from around the world.

The Cranberry High Noon club meets Mondays at noon in the Cranberry Public Library.

President and Competent Communicator Michelle Hall. 40, of Pine Township founded the club for people in the area who were looking for a lunch-time club.

“Personally, Toastmasters has made me a more consistent and confident speaker,” said Hall, a business coach at ThistleSea Business Development.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach her at kshea@tribweb.com or at 724-772-6353.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.