A toast to effective communication

West Coast Toastmasters members (left) Rob McDermot, Wendy Arthurs, Ian Dorge, Deidre Moran, Linda Quesnel, Acting Sub-Lieutenant Guillaume Lussier-Houle gather for their weekly meeting at Naval Fleet School Pacific. Photo by Peter Mallett

West Coast Toastmasters members (left) Rob McDermot, Wendy Arthurs, Ian Dorge, Deidre Moran, Linda Quesnel, Acting Sub-Lieutenant Guillaume Lussier-Houle gather for their weekly meeting at Naval Fleet School Pacific. Photo by Peter Mallett

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

If you’ve ever become tongue-tied while speaking with a colleague, large audience or potential employer, the solution to your dilemma could be joining Toastmasters.

The West Coast Toastmasters chapter can help you overcome those all too common stumbling speech blocks.

The group meets every Thursday over the lunch hour in the Naval Fleet School Pacific Building N92 conference room.

Central to the Toastmasters mandate is providing practice and training in communication skills. The benefits of membership extend past having confidence and poise while speaking, says Ian Dorge, West Coast Toastmasters Vice President of Education.

“Toastmasters is really about the entire communications spectrum: listening, evaluating, impromptu speaking and presenting. If you join our group and become a member you will notice an improvement to many aspects of your communication skill set. If you are a better listener, you comprehend things better, you can answer more effectively and you can speak more effectively.”

Dorge, who works as a Deputy Material Distribution Manager with Base Logistics, says the club is all about creating a warm and hospitable space where members can interact and learn as the international organization’s founder intended.

Toastmasters was created in 1924 by Dr. Ralph C. Smedley in the basement of a YMCA in Santa Ana, California. Smedley’s overall vision was to offer practice and training in communication and leadership skills, including the art of public speaking, presiding over meetings and promoting sociability and fellowship.

Today, the organization boasts approximately 352,000 members in 13,000 clubs located in 142 countries worldwide.

West Coast Toastmasters was co-founded in 2013 by current club president Wendy Arthurs. The group has a wide-ranging membership because of its location near both Dockyard, Naden and downtown.

“Our group is very diverse; not only do we have civilians and military that work for the Department of National Defence, but we also have civilians from outside the base,” says Arthurs.

In order to achieve their objectives, meetings move quickly, have a strict itinerary and try to involve as many members of the group as possible. Each member has a designated role to play at meetings, which typically start with the week’s designated Toastmaster introducing the topic of the day and members of the evaluation team.

The Evaluation Team consists of a Grammarian who introduces a Word of The day; an Um-Ah Counter who monitors and encourages members to avoid filler type words during pauses; a Table Topics Evaluator who grades the speaker’s presentation, and a Timer who uses a stopwatch to time speeches and make sure members don’t go over the time limit.

A Table Topics Master provides the question a member answers within the one to two minute time limit.

Why Join?
Members of West Coast Toastmasters come from different occupations and backgrounds and have unique reasons for joining.

Acting Sub Lieutenant Guillaume Lussier-Houle, who is working to master English as a second language, began his involvement in Toastmasters in 2016 in his hometown of Montreal. After he completed basic training ­earlier this year, he was posted to Esquimalt and reached out to the group.

“I am always looking to get lots of practice for my English, and taking part in activities like Toastmasters really helps me to get my point across when I’m at work, such as if I need to ask my boss a question or have something important to explain,” said the 28-year-old, currently enrolled as an N-41 Trainee at the Naval Officer Training Centre (NOTC).

Dorge said he joined Toastmasters in 2013, but drifted away from it for about a year. However, it became evident he was missing something important in his life and career.

“When I stopped my involvement with Toastmasters because of a scheduling conflict I noticed bad habits were creeping back into my speech. I decided to rejoin in May 2016.”

New members receive their indoctrination into the group by embarking on the Toastmasters Education Program. The program includes two main tracks: A Communication Track involving 10 speaking projects, and a Leadership Track, which involves serving in all of the various roles in the club to develop key leadership and people skills, such as the power of persuasion.

Membership dues for the West Coast Toastmasters are approximately $56 every six months with an additional one-time $25 registration fee for new members.

For more information about Toastmasters, visit their website: http://victoriatoastmasters.org/ or contact Ian Dorge at Ian.Dorge@forces.gc.ca

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