Communication is not often regarded as a skill that should be sharpened but a group in the city are encouraging people to meet once a week to engage in the art of speech.
Have you ever listened to a TED Talk that sends chills up your spine? Some of those superb orators learned their skills through the international Toastmasters program. A Prince Rupert has its own club that meets every week where members learn how to be a master speaker.
The Prince Rupert Toastmasters Club has been active in the city for over 30 years. The group shut down for a few years but on Jan. 13 the club celebrated its first anniversary after finding enough interest in the community to start again.
Daniela Cappelli manages the club’s public relations after joining last June. “Whatever your profession is it’s really important to be able to communicate,” she said. She considers the meetings a safe place where everyone else is going through the same thing — they all want to become better communicators.
Cappelli moved to Prince Rupert two years ago from Mexico. English is her second language and she normally considers herself introverted. As a new stay-at-home mom she said she looks forward to the meetings because it keeps her sharp for when she re-enters the workforce.
Anyone is welcome to join free of cost. Cappelli dropped into the meetings for two months before deciding to become a member. There are members between the ages of 18 and 75 with occupations ranging from nurses, teachers, mothers, politicians and students.
“It’s a rich group of people who are very respectful,” Cappelli said.
At the 90-minute meeting there are prepared speeches and table topics, or shorter unprepared speeches. After someone presents the group offers constructive criticism on how to improve.
The speeches follow a formula and participants learn how to structure their writing so that it becomes easier to prepare each time. The prepared speeches run between seven and 12 minutes.
The table topics aim to develop skills for delivering a short one to two-minute speech. The topic is chosen by the table talk master and once your name is called you respond right away with an on-the-spot speech.
Michael Gurney joined the club last February. He is already a communicator by profession at the Prince Rupert Port Authority but he decided to give it a try after the club’s president, Michal Sluka, urged him to join.
“It has been such a privilege to be among people earnestly eager to grow each week and open up to criticism,” Gurney said.
Both Gurney and Cappelli encourage newcomers to attend a meeting to learn what it is all about.
“Every community needs leaders and Toastmasters is a great site to practice becoming a leader,” Cappelli said.
The club offers relevant skills for leaders of volunteer societies, civic bodies or business professionals to run better meetings, learn how to structure their organization more efficiently and develop leadership capabilities that reflects on the city, Gurney said.
Toastmasters offers many more benefits. It’s a place to network with others in the community. There are different levels of certification for members and once a certain level has been achieved the organization can send a notice of certification to an employer or it can be added to a resume.
There are quite a few notable speechwriters and professionals who were Toastmasters. For example, Jon Favreau was only 27 when he became the director of speechwriting for President Barack Obama; Bill Bennett, was a former B.C. premier; and Leonard Nimroy, was the actor who played Spock on Star Trek.
A notable Toastmaster in Prince Rupert is city councillor Gurvinder Randhawa.
In its second year the club is introducing a mentorship program by pairing up with other clubs within the city to help out with speech training.
The group meets every Tuesday from 7:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the NorthWest Community College. Guests are always welcome and they don’t have to participate but are encouraged to try.