Have you heard of the international nonprofit Toastmasters? In 2017, a local JP branch was formed. Danna Baida, a charter member of Jamaica Plain's branch answered questions about the organization, how it assists people to be better public speakers and how it helps brides and grooms with their wedding speeches.
Q: What is JP Toastmasters?
Baida: JP Toastmasters is the Jamaica Plain chapter of Toastmasters International, an educational non-profit dedicated to empowering individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.
Our club's mission is to provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.
Q: How, when and why was it started?
Baida: JP Toastmasters was chartered in July 2017 by a group of neighbors and longtime Toastmasters, who wanted to start a club that would meet close to home and serve Jamaica Plain and surrounding neighborhoods.
Our parent organization, Toastmasters International, was started in 1924 as a series of speaking clubs organized by Ralph C. Smedley during his time working for the YMCA in Bloomington, Illinois. More information about the history of Toastmasters International can be found at toastmasters.org/about/history.
Q: Who should join JP Toastmasters?
Baida: Anyone who would like to improve their communication and leadership skills, and would like to do so in a supportive, friendly, and fun club environment. This can apply to people who want to become effective community activists, compelling at promoting their business, or successful in their careers. Our club members come from diverse backgrounds with a variety of personal goals they would like to achieve. JP Toastmasters is open to everyone in the community (age 18 and up).
Q: Is it good for someone who's very good at speaking in public
Baida: Yes. Everyone at any level can gain and improve through Toastmasters. Those who are already very good at public speaking can benefit from feedback that could help them become even better, and possibly improve different techniques or aspects of public speaking. For example, I met a professional storyteller who came to learn how to more effectively structure her stories into a short format, multiple university professors who learned how to add engagement to their lectures, and actors interested in improving their delivery.
Beginners come to Toastmasters to conquer the fear of public speaking and become confident in front of an audience. I have seen many flourish and develop from fearful reading of a script to confident and inspirational speaking.
Q: Does it cost money to join?
Baida: Visiting is free, and anyone can visit as many times as they like, until they are ready to become members. Membership dues are $69 every 6 months (prorated for new members), plus a one time new member fee of $20.
Q: Is it about toasting like at weddings, dinner engagements and birthdays?
Baida: The Toastmasters educational program comprises of a self-paced curriculum that is adapted to a member's learning goals through a selection of ten possible paths, focusing on public speaking, interpersonal communication, leadership, and a lot more. There are more than 300 unique competencies and real-world, transferable skills available in the Toastmasters program. One of the advanced elective options can also include toasting at weddings. I have met many brides and grooms who joined Toastmasters to hone their skills ahead of their big day.
Q: What's a typical meeting like? How often do you meet?
Baida: JP Toastmasters meets twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Monday evening of every month (except holidays). Our meetings start on time at 7 pm, and last for 90 minutes. Each meeting is lead by a member who volunteers to be the Toastmaster of the evening. The Toastmaster introduces the speakers and other role holders. The first part of the meeting is the prepared speeches, in which members deliver speeches they have been working on through their educational curriculum. The second part is Table Topics, in which we practice impromptu speaking by answering a question in 1-2 minutes. Finally, in the evaluation portion of the meeting, members receive supportive and helpful feedback for their prepared speeches. There's a good overview of what a typical meeting looks like in this video from Toastmasters International.
Q: How does someone get involved with JP Toastmasters? Does it cost to join?
Baida: JP Toastmasters welcomes visitors to all our meetings. To get involve, simply come to one of our meetings and talk with members to learn more about the Toastmasters experience. We meet on the 2nd and 4th Monday of every month at 7 PM at The Footlight Club, Eliot Hall, 7A Eliot Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. The meetings are held in the Parker room. We start the meeting on time, so it is a good idea to come in a few minutes early.