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Monday, Dec. 29, 2014

Here's a toast!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sikeston Toastmasters club is forming to promote communication, leadership

SIKESTON -- Are you one of those people who gets nervous when it comes to speaking in front of others, no matter what the size of the crowd?

If so, you would be a perfect fit in a new club forming in Sikeston.

"Toastmasters basically devotes itself to creating better communicators and leaders -- the two kind of go hand-in-hand," said Lisa Kenley. Kenley, who works in human resources at the Missouri Department of Transportation's office in Sikeston, was charged to start the group by the assistant district engineer.

"MoDOT is taking a leadership stance nowadays," Kenley said. "We have all kinds of meetings and interaction with the public and we want our people to be able to speak effectively."

Toastmasters International is a non-profit international communications and leadership organization that has assisted more than four million men and women since its incorporation in 1924, said Dori Drummond, lieutenant governor of marketing for Toastmasters District 8, who is helping Kenley establish the local club.

Right now, the only Toastmasters group in Southeast Missouri is in Cape Girardeau. Two new clubs -- in Sikeston and Poplar Bluff -- are now being chartered.

"We want Southeast Missourians to have the same opportunities to improve their communication and leadership skills that Toastmasters in 91 counties presently enjoy," Drummond said.

So far about 10 people have said they'd like to join. "We've got several MoDOT people and several people out of the community," Kenley said.

It's required that there be 20 people to start a club, Kenley continued. She wants to have the membership in place so meetings can begin around the first of the year.

Toastmasters asks that each club meet at least once per month. But the frequency of those meetings will be decided by the membership, Kenley said.

For the first six months, meetings will be held with members from other clubs to help the Sikeston group make a smooth transition. They'll come in to host workshops that focus on impromptu speaking, prepared speeches and evaluations. All the topics for speeches are based upon objectives provided in manuals published by Toastmasters International, Drummond said.

"Obviously we don't push anybody into doing anything until they're ready," Kenley said. "This is a really supportive, non-threatening situation. We're only here to make people feel comfortable and get confidence in speaking in these types of situations."

The group is open to all types of people. "Our membership includes professionals, blue collar workers, housewives, and students because communication and leadership skills are key to every aspect of our lives: the workplace, at home, in community and church activities, etc.," Drummond said.

Drummond recalled how she became involved. As a law school graduate, she was afraid to speak in front of people. For instance, she had participated in a mock trial and received few suggestions concerning legal aspects of the case. But, the judge told Drummond how nervous she looked and suggested public speaking instruction.

After graduation, Drummond found a Toastmasters Club.

"Since joining, I have successfully argued a case before the Missouri Court of Appeals, delivered a eulogy to a large audience, and addressed certain professional and civic organizations," Drummond said. "None of that would have been possible without Toastmasters."

She noted that members can also develop leadership skills by holding offices at the club level and beyond.

And Kenley stressed that although MoDOT is forming the group, it's open to all community members. "It's always important to us to include the community whenever we can," she said. "It's also a great networking opportunity."