Imagine performing a presentation in front of a room of eager listeners on a topic you’ve been assigned only seconds before. For some, this might sound like a midterm nightmare, but for Mount Allison student Talia Steeves, it’s an exciting challenge.
Steeves is one of 15 members of the Bagtown Babblers Toastmasters group. For those unfamiliar with the international organization, Toastmasters is “dedicated to improving communication and leadership (multi-lingual) abilities within an atmosphere of fellowship and fun,” according to Joe Grondin, Bagtown Babblers Vice-President of Public Relations.
Toastmasters teaches public speaking skills in two ways. “The Competent Communication takes you through 10 speech projects you’ll prepare to do at the meetings. The other track, Competent Leadership, takes you through 10 leadership projects, like being involved in running meetings,” Steeves wrote in an e-mail to the Argosy.
Although Steeves has long enjoyed public speaking as a hobby, she officially joined Bagtown Babblers this year. “I found one of their posters and got excited because it’s right here on campus,” Steeves wrote.
The group recently participated in a spring competition, where Steeves won the Bagtown Babblers Toastmasters’ Table Topics Speech Contest title. The competition was held in the Avard Dixon building.
“Knowing what to expect and being well prepared are the two things that calm my nerves for a competition. But with Table Topics, you don’t get either of those. I definitely wasn’t expecting a win in my first competition, but I’m proud of how well I performed under pressure,” Steeves said of the experience.
Some Toastmasters activities are pre-planned, but Table Topics is more similar to improvisation. “The only difference I would say is that you’re on your own. It teaches you to think quickly and make intelligent responses that are substantial enough to last one to two minutes. You learn how to stop babbling and reply with confidence,” Steeves wrote.
Steeves and Grondin both spoke passionately about the skills and confidence with which Toastmasters has equipped them and thousands of others.
For Steeves, the group provides her with practical life skills. “I would recommend Toastmasters to everyone … because most jobs require at least a little public speaking. These are the type of skills that employers look for, so I’m told,” Steeves wrote. “But outside of the job force, who doesn’t want to be a boss at presentations? Heck, it’s probably useful when you’re on a hot date, too.”
“Words cannot express fully how much I value Toastmasters,” Grondin wrote. “This program can equip anyone to be a better leader and a better communicator. I joined Toastmasters to become an inspirational speaker, and because of this wonderful organization, I have fulfilled that dream.”
For those of us who are getting nervous and red from simply reading this article, Grondin is quick to say that the group’s “atmosphere can be best described as lively, positive, educational and, most important, fun!”
While Steeves is only one of two student members, the group is excited at the prospect of more student membership. “They’d like it if I could bring in more students, but none of my friends want to check it out. Although the ratio [of non-students to students] is high, the other members are some of the sweetest people I have met. There is no judgment and they’re very quick to offer support; I’d easily call them friends,” Steeves wrote.
The Bagtown Babblers meet every second Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. in Avard Dixon. If you’re curious about being part of Toastmasters, Steeves is happy to answer any questions.