Members meet twice a month to build confidence in their public speaking

Here I am at Crescent City Toastmasters, College of the Redwoods, Room 36. I've asked people why they come to Toastmasters.

andbull; Debbie Lewis: "I'm a commercial fisherman, and I've had other businesses in the past, like a seafood market crab stand. And right now, in addition to commercial fishing, a partner and I are operating the Crescent City crab stand, Crab Shack.

"I've found over the years that at some point you always have to go in front of a group and give some kind of a presentation or speech in your business, whether it's the Board of Supervisors, or something else. And I think this gives you the confidence and skills to do that rather than saying I'm not going to do that, and not get the business.

"You're in front of a group of people that you get to know, and we all become friends. It''s just the exposure of being in front of a group, and their comments. Speeches are critiqued, and they count how many times you say and, and, and, or uh, uh, uh. You don't even realize you're doing it, but this all comes to your awareness. The most important thing for me is to get the confidence to do public speaking to promote my business."

andbull; Darrell Morehead:"I've been in Toastmasters here in Crescent City for three years now. Toastmasters has done wonders for me. I recognize that I'm getting better at public speaking and much more comfortable. Our Table Topics have given me the skills and tools to speak impromptu. I would recommend Toastmasters to most anyone. It has helped me communicate more efficiently to organize my thoughts, speak clearly and concisely, gauge my audience reactions, and all the various skills that go into public speaking.

"The unexpected benefit is that you can learn to run and organize meetings as well. I had the pleasure of chairing one of the committee meetings for the Smith River Rancheria. The chairman for the particular committee was absent that day. I did a decent job of it. I kept the meeting running smoothly and on track. Those are skills I learned here in running and managing our Toastmasters. It's easy to get off track, so it's important to do what we came here to do.

Would you care to join? Anyone who interacts with the public would benefit from joining Toastmasters. We're a very friendly, and kind and caring environment in which to improve oneself. One of the skills we learn is how to evaluate in a constructive manner.

Gail will be my evaluator tonight. Each speech we do concentrates on a specific skill from a list of 10 skills in the workbook, and there are several different workbooks with more lists of skills. My speech tonight will focus on the skill to inspire."

Anita Janis began the meeting with this invocation:

"I always appreciate the importance of communication, and I find that the longer we spend contemplating our choices of words, the better the results."

Anita told me later that she has been in Toastmasters for many years. Every time she moves, she joins the local Toastmasters Club. The Crescent City club got started about five years ago.

Anita introduced the first speaker, John Ging, who "has been in this club from day one. He's been a big part of us. He has a wonderful sense of humor and a terrific perspective on things, and when you bring those two together, it's so enjoyable to listen to him speak.

He's speaking outside the manual, so he calls this his practice speech, "How Do You Get Rid of a Tsunami Elephant?" In his speech, he asked the audience to consider whether we personify the "elephant in the room" metaphor by our lack of preparedness for tsunamis.

John mentioned that before 1964, few citizens in Del Norte County cared about tsunamis. They called them tidal waves, and they were very complacent about water washing up on Front Street. In 1958, the local police chief was even forced to resign after he evacuated the city on reports that a 50-foot tidal wave was coming. It never materialized.

There were four men and nine women at the meeting I attended. Everyone got a chance to either give a speech, make a short impromptu talk from a topic pulled out of a hat, or critique a talk or speech. I remember attending a Toastmasters meeting years ago in the Bay Area, and the difference with this meeting was like night and day. This meeting was much better organized and more professional.

Toastmasters was started at the YMCA in Santa Ana in 1924 by Ralph C. Smedley. Coincidentally, Dale Carnegie also started his extremely successful public speaking career at a YMCA during that same period. Carnegie went on to write "How to Win Friends and Influence People," which became one of the best-selling books in American history.

Toastmasters International has grown into an organization with more than 292,000 memberships in more than 14,350 clubs in 122 countries.

What struck me was how involved in the community the members seemed to be. I wondered whether they became more involved in the community because they were in Toastmasters, or they joined Toastmasters because they were involved in the community, or both.

For example, several members mentioned that Darrell Morehead can often be seen with his camera everywhere in town. He has become quite the roving photographer since he retired from the Elk Valley Rancheria a year ago. He calls it capturing history, and he is very generous with the photos he takes at schools, weddings, the Fourth of July celebration, or whatever event may be going on. He's also interested in doing photo restoration. Call him at 951-7309.

Likewise, Charlene Storr (458-3526) has become very accomplished in the art of storytelling since being involved in Toastmasters, first in Arcata and then in Crescent City.

Toastmasters has 25 different manuals, each devoted to a special pursuit, such as public speaking, education, storytelling, etc. She does three or four storytelling events a month upon request, and she's a member of the Northcoast Story Tellers Association, she serves on the board of directors of Indian Health Services and volunteers at the Del Norte Historical Museum.

And now an update on the first-ever ping pong tournament at Pizza King Restaurant, held Wednesday, April 9. There were six contestants, and the winner was Glen Bartley of Gasquet.

There will be two tournaments in May on the second and fourth Wednesdays, May 14 and 28, from 7 to 9 p.m. See you there!

Senior Sleuth runs every two weeks. Reach Joan Miles at 464-2729 or at