Toastmasters, a nonprofit educational organization, is an opportunity for Total Force Airmen to learn and improve public speaking and leadership skills. Though Toastmasters is an international organization with clubs in 141 countries, there are three clubs on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and 29 in the greater Dayton area.
“Most military installations only have one club; however, Wright-Patterson is unique, we have three and are actually looking to add a fourth due to the high number of personnel interested in Toastmasters,” said Master Sgt. Kevin Alexander, area director.
Toastmasters’ members can learn to improve their communication and leadership skills and overcome a fear of public speaking.
“Toastmasters has helped me learn to speak effectivity to my audience whomever that audience may be in any type of meeting,” said Alexander. “The ability to stand up in front of people has been invaluable. Toastmasters has helped me learn to be comfortable even in an uncomfortable setting.”
Public speaking skills are needed in many environments. For some, public speaking is standing up to give a formal speech, but for others it is provided quick, accurate and informative responses when needed
“The most important skill I have learned is speaking off the cuff,” said Kwatema Mensah, a member of Toastmaster for one and a half years. “Toastmaster taught me how to immediately focus and provide a swift response, which has helped me greatly in my career, especially when engaging with leadership.”
Mensah says she would recommend Toastmasters for all Total Force Airmen.
“What do you have to lose? You are only gaining fundamentals skills you will need your entire Air Force career, as well as in your personal life as you engage with the everyday world,” said Mensah.
Toastmasters is more than just public speaking, however.
“Membership includes education materials,” said Alexander. “One of these is Pathways, which is a self-paced online course with different levels and electives things like ‘How to Make a Podcast’ and “Writing a Blog’ in addition to speaking and leadership.”
These education materials provide members with skills they can carry throughout their career.
“It is as if I carry an invisible toolbox with me,” said Dinah Luneke, a member of Toastmasters for seven years. “Inside of my toolbox are all the main skills I need for public speaking. Thanks to Toastmasters, I carry this toolbox with me where ever I go.”
While the WPAFB area Toastmasters clubs are focused on military members, they provide this valuable learning opportunity to all community members.
“We have members in these clubs from every aspect of the WPAFB community enlisted, civilians, officers, spouses, and retirees,” said Alexander. “If you have base access, then you can join.”
This diversity allows members to learn about tailoring messages and effective communication to different audiences. It also allows members to make new connections and learn about different communication styles.
“I would recommend Toastmasters to anyone, not just Airmen,” said Senior Airman Eric Dowell, a new member of Toastmasters. “Toastmasters can help with everyday life, communicating and connecting with people. It also helps with professional development, public speaking, and building confidence”
Communication skills extend far beyond just public speaking, as do the lessons learned in Toastmasters.
“Most of us aren’t public speakers, but we still need to be able to communicate well in small group settings or in our workplace,” said Luneke. “Toastmasters teaches you these skills and helps you to step up.”
Learning to communicate in both large and small group settings helps to ensure your message is heard.
“It’s important to be able to deliver your message in a way your audience can take in,” said Alexander. “You shouldn’t be talking just to talk, you need to be vectoring your message accordingly so your audience can understand.”
While learning such valuable skills as clear communication, self-awareness and relationship-building, the area Toastmasters clubs have also achieved high success, with hope for even further growth.
“Last year, the Wright Flyers club received the president’s distinguished level, which is the highest recognition a Toastmasters club can receive,” said Alexander. “Only about 15 to 17 percent of clubs receive this award, but my mission is to bring all area clubs to that level by next year.”
To find a WPAFB area Toastmasters Club, visit www.toastmasters.org. For more information, contact Alexander at email@example.com .
WPAFB Clubs have scheduled meetings:
Huffman Prairie Toastmasters Club #1242
Every Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Area A, Bldg. 262, AFMC/A4 Buckeye Conference Room (Hallway B, Room 104)
Wright Flyers Toastmasters Club #4532
Every Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Area B, Bldg. 50 (Education Center), Room 225
Tarmac Toastmasters Club #8178
Every 1st & 3rd Wednesday, 5-6 p.m.
Area B, Bldg. 50 (Education Center), Room 225