One day each week, members of the Beatrice Toastmasters Club meet to participate in something that makes most people very anxious: public speaking.
The Toastmasters gather at 7 a.m. every Friday to deliver speeches they’ve prepared, President Dennis Applegarth said, and they also come to laugh—though not at each other.
While each speaker does get evaluated for his or her performance, the group aims to focus on positivity, support and providing constructive criticism.
“The fun that we have, the jokes that are told, the opportunity to encourage people as they speak and help them with their development, those are all fun things,” Applegarth said. “But we really laugh a lot and it really is an awful lot of fun.”
The meetings are held in the in the chamber office of the Carnegie Building and each begins with the Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer and a joke before speakers take turns delivering their speeches. Meetings may also involve other speaking exercises such as “Table Topics,” an activity in which members are assigned a topic and must give a speech about it within moments.
By participating in Toastmasters meetings and competition events throughout the year, members are able to strengthen their speaking skills and eliminate some of the fear and anxiety around public speaking, Applegarth said.
“Public speaking is the number one fear of people in this nation, maybe around the world—in fact, (it’s) even greater than the fear of dying,” he said. “Therefore, that means if you’re at a funeral, you’re better off being the guy in the casket than the guy at the podium.”