Communication is not optional

There was little fanfare, but I recently won the Storytelling Arts of Indiana Liars Contest held at the Indiana State Fair. No, really, I did. I’ve got a $100 check to prove it. I won the liars contest with a speech I originally developed in Toastmasters. What is Toastmasters? It’s a club where you can hone your speaking skills through practice and feedback. Clubs meet regularly, usually weekly, and anyone can join in most cases. In Hendricks County, there are two clubs which I will tell you about.
Personally, I’ve relied on my communication skills quite a bit. Later this month, I’ll be giving a speech before the Plainfield Chamber of Commerce about Social Media. I’m nervous, but more than a decade of Toastmasters mentoring and training reminds me that if I practice and focus on the message I’ll do fine.
Toastmasters International just celebrated 85 years because it does something very fundamental: It teaches you how to give a public presentation. It also teaches you how to form your thoughts in a coherent manner. It basically teaches you to communicate effectively. It does this in three ways.
First, each member gives prepared speeches. There is a manual of exercises designed to introduce club members to a new aspect of speaking such as how to use variety in your voice or how to organize a speech. The subject matter is totally up to the member.
Second, each meeting is structured with roles filled by members usually on a rotating basis.
Finally, each meeting has an impromptu section designed to give speakers a subject and immediately asking them to give a 2-minute speech about said subject. Impromptu speaking can be intimidating, but this gives you a chance to practice and feel more comfortable should the situation arise in business.
Every speech is evaluated by another member who will gently point out suggestions such as rocking back and forth or reminding you that, “Uhhhhhh …” is not the word of the day.
Clubs meet between an hour and 90 minutes. They are friendly places. When I first became a member, I was amazed at how many filler words I used. Toastmasters assigned someone to count them. I also learned the difference between a lectern and a podium and I’ve learned countless items from individual speeches. Toastmasters is also intellectually stimulating and always great fun.
For the ambitious, there are also competitions that cross clubs. There’s even an International Speech Competition that scales the planet.
Cost is minimal compared to a class. It runs around $40 every six months depending on the club you join.
As I mentioned, there are two clubs in Hendricks County. Twin Bridges Toastmasters meets at 6:15 p.m. every Monday at Cummins Mental Health offices at 6655 E. U.S. 36 in Avon. Call Joe Johansson at (317) 745-7976 or e-mail him at for more information.
There’s a new club forming in Brownsburg that meets at 7 a.m. Monday. Call Michael Wock at (317) 531-4287 or for more information like location.
Or you can just call me.


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