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At 60, local Toastmasters club trying to make its existence more known
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Marilyn Delgado competes in a Gainesville Toastmasters club level contest for international speech Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, during a weekly meeting at the Jacobs Building at Brenau University. - photo by Scott Rogers

Giving a speech to 300 people can be more than a little intimidating.

Just ask Marilyn Delgado, who had that duty once at the Gainesville Civic Center.

“I fell out and cried,” she said. “I couldn’t complete my speech.”

Delgado has come along since those days, thanks to help she’s gotten through Gainesville Toastmasters.

“Very few people know this club exists,” president Nick Scheman said. “You tend to overlook things like this. You typically would go to a school to take a class in speech when there’s a club like this that’s … within a half-hour’s drive of where you live.”

Celebrating its 60th anniversary Feb. 1, the club, part of the worldwide Toastmasters International, is trying to get the word out about its mission and its activities.

Gainesville Toastmasters

What: Organization helps members improve public speaking and leadership skills

Meets: 6-7 p.m. every Monday (except holidays) at Brenau University’s John W. Jacobs Jr. Building, 340 Green St.

More info: gainesvilletoastmasters.org

Members held an open house Jan. 8 at their meeting location — Brenau University’s John W. Jacobs Jr. Building at 340 Green St. — and a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

The group meets every Monday, except holidays, to help each other develop public speaking and conversational skills, which also play into enhancing leadership skills, as speaking one-on-one and to crowds can be key managerial duties.

“For some of our members, (joining Toastmasters) may be a job requirement or needed for a raise or promotion,” Scheman said. “For others, they may just want something else to do in their life to better themselves.”

“For me,” he added, “I’m a teacher, so it’s kind of natural to hone my craft a little more and figure out ways to improve communication skills.”

Delgado sought out Toastmasters because “I had changed careers, and I needed it more for interviewing.”

Even a more intimate setting — speaking before the club — was hard for her.

“Three words in (to speaking), I broke down and cried,” she said. “But I got over it. The president at the time … held me up, stayed right behind me and coached me, and I made it through that night.”

She said that following that night she got “tons of emails from everybody saying, ‘You did a good job, don’t give up, try it again, you got this.’

“The positive influence is what brought me back.”

Scheman added: “It doesn’t matter what level you are when you start. Everybody starts and goes at their pace. Some people come in with no speaking skills at all and they can still grow and benefit standing next to a seasoned speaker.”

He said the experience is not meant to be an “I gotcha.”

“It’s about how we can help one another grow, so the evaluations are positive,” Scheman said. “There’s a lot of recognizing people for what they do.”

Delgado, a member for about four years and the club’s treasurer, is seeing the rewards from her work.

She won a club speech contest last week and goes on to compete at Toastmasters’ area level. Scheman also won a “table topics” contest, where members speak impromptu on random topics, and goes to the area competition.

Another club member, Matt Overman, said he had some experience with Toastmasters while in college. He decided to start back about six months ago, as his job calls for him to present information over the phone.

“It’s just a good way to continue learning,” he said.

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