Toastmasters club tames butterflies in public

BY RENE DE LA CRUZ
APPLE VALLEY REVIEW

Spokeswoman Kathie Martin is considered the voice of the town of Apple Valley, but the cool and collective Martin wasn’t always so composed.

“Sometimes when I spoke, my breathing would be very shallow and I would get out of breath,” said Martin, whose regular duties often finds her in the public spotlight with a microphone.

To have her oratory skills refined and nerves calmed, Martin turned to the Butterfly Tamers Toastmasters Club 18 months ago.

“With someone evaluating me, I quickly learned that when I was nervous I spoke too fast,” said Martin, after her weekly morning Toastmasters meeting. “Now I know how many words I need to write to comfortably fill a time slot and not be rushed.”

Martin, along with regular members and several visitors, attended the Toastmasters open house at the town’s conference center on Sept. 10. The club had previously met at a local restaurant.

“It’s a much more professional environment than McDonald’s, with much fewer distractions,” said Martin, who is now a spokeswoman for her club. “We hope the professional setting, coupled with a more centralized location, will continue to attract new members.”

Business owner Sam Thatte, who became a club-member along with several others during the event, said he was amazed at how professional and welcoming his hosts were.

“I watched an online video on what to expect at a Toastmasters meeting, and I was overwhelmed by how much the AV meeting resembled the video,” Thatte said. “Even the room looked the same.”

Thatte, who does not consider himself to be a great speaker, hopes that Toastmasters will help him to master the art of impromptu presentations, which currently “scares the heck” out of him.

During the meeting, the group’s moderator asked a few participants to speak on a selected topic and then invited the group to give feedback on each speech.

“I discovered that the people at Toastmasters not only want to progress themselves, but they enjoy helping other to progress as well,” Thatte said. “I look forward to seeing how this will unfold.”

Rick Danzey, who is the area governor over six Victor Valley clubs, said his region has its eyes set on forming a seventh club in Hesperia this September.

“We’re looking at having a mid-day club at Foremost Health Center,” Danzey said. “It would help those associated with the center and those in the community.”

The High Desert Yak Pak, Apple Valley’s second Toastmasters club, meets in the evening in order to give those who work in the day an opportunity to get involved, Danzey said.

Danzey, who has been involved with Toastmasters since 1992, attributes his advancement in the business, government and private sectors to leadership and communication skills developed with Toastmasters.

Founded in a Southern California YMCA basement, Toastmasters International has trained individuals in the art of public speaking since 1924, and has grown to 280,000 members in 116 countries.

“Most people are afraid of public speaking, but we’re not here to critique, we’re here to embrace the mission of the club by providing mutual support in a learning environment.”

Rene De La Cruz may be reached at (760) 951-6227 or at RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com.