New Wright-Patt club ‘speaks up’ for leadership, communication skills

Master Sgt. Kevin Alexander, Mission Support superintendent, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, who is Toastmasters area director, evaluates a speaker during a club meeting on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base June 4. The Wright Way Toastmasters meet every first and third Tuesday of the month at noon in the Wright-Patterson Medical Center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Karina Brady)

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Master Sgt. Kevin Alexander, Mission Support superintendent, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, who is Toastmasters area director, evaluates a speaker during a club meeting on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base June 4. The Wright Way Toastmasters meet every first and third Tuesday of the month at noon in the Wright-Patterson Medical Center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Karina Brady)

You walk to the front of the room and stand before a group of your subordinates. Maybe you’re an officer about to address your troops. Or perhaps you’re a supervisor, ready to give a briefing. But you don’t feel ready.

Public speaking anxiety is common, but facing that fear is the best way to overcome it, according to the Wright Way Toastmasters of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The Wright Way Toastmasters, chartered May 25 by Toastmasters International, is the newest Toastmasters club on base. Their goal is to help military, civilian and contractor employees, as well as spouses and retirees, improve their communication and leadership skills through public speaking.

The club meets the first and third Tuesday of every month in the Education and Training classroom Alpha at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center. Meetings last one hour, starting at noon.

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When noon hits, the meeting begins with introductory speeches from the club president and the “Toastmaster of the Day.”

Two members have prepared speeches about a given topic, and they talk for four to six minutes. The “Timer” holds up green, yellow and red cards to communicate when each speaker is nearing the time limit. The group applauds as the speakers step up to the podium and once again as they conclude their speeches. This is conventional Toastmasters etiquette.

The “Table Topics Master” begins the impromptu speaking session. Members are chosen at random to speak on a topic that they are given on the spot. At this particular meeting, June 4, the “Table Topics Master” asks Capt. Eunice Kim, nurse practitioner with the 88th Medical Group, “What is your dream job?” Immediately, Kim begins talking about the subject until one to two minutes have passed. The session continues until seven members have given speeches.

The agenda transitions to speech evaluations. The “General Evaluator” provides feedback about the meeting as a whole, followed by individual evaluations of the speakers. “Your pacing was perfect, but don’t let the podium be a distraction,” Staff Sgt. Joseph Alvarez, 88th MDG respiratory therapist, was advised.

The “Grammarian” informs each speaker the number of times they said filler words, like “um” or “well.” Afterwards, the “Master Listener” quizzes the members on how well they listened during their peers’ speeches.

The “Toastmaster of the Day” concludes the meeting, and the club recognizes the “Best Table Topic Speech” and the “Most Improved Speaker.” Kim and Airman 1st Class Frank Davis, administrative technician for 88th MDG, are chosen as the recipients of these awards, respectively. They stand and receive a warm round of applause from their peers.

The Wright Way Toastmasters agree that the club has helped them be better communicators in their organizations.

Master Sgt. Kevin Alexander, Mission Support superintendent, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and Toastmasters area director, believes that his involvement with Toastmasters for the last three years has helped him improve his leadership skills.

“I want to be able to be a good supervisor so I can give direction to assure that my audience is listening and understanding what I’m saying,” said Alexander.

Staff Sgt. Jimarco White, NCOIC of Mission Support, AFOSI, and Wright Way Toastmasters sergeant at arms, commented on the difference between Toastmasters and a public speaking class.

“It’s a very low-threat environment,” White said. “With classes or courses that you go through for the same thing, you’re kind of under a microscope – you’re being graded; you’re being watched. But here at Wright Way, you go at your own pace.”

People with base access are welcome to join anytime. Those interested in Wright Way can sit in on meetings to determine if the club is right for them. A new member’s fee of $20 is required to join, along with an additional $45 every six months (pro-rated fees will apply).

Three additional Toastmasters clubs meet on Wright-Patt: The Wright Flyers, Tarmac and Huffman Prairie Toastmasters.

For more information about the Wright Way Toastmasters or the other Toastmaster clubs on base, contact Alexander at kevin.alexander.6@us.af.mil.

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