Port City Toastmasters Club begins in Bainbridge to train public speaking

Published 7:12 pm Friday, April 10, 2015


Port City Toastmasters Club officers, from left: Lauren Harrell, Debra Brock, Theresa Holloway, Jennifer Matthews, David Warr, Sam Mayhew, Alan McCann and Toastmasters division governor Dave Huffman. — Powell Cobb

Those who have heard of the international club Toastmasters might have preconceptions on what the club actually is.

It’s just a bunch of people giving speeches.

I don’t need to learn public speaking skills.

Email newsletter signup

I’m not very good at speaking to large groups of people.

Toastmasters division governor Dave Huffman has a different opinion: he thinks the club is for everyone.

Since joining Toastmasters in 1992, Huffman’s confidence, leadership, social skills and public speaking have skyrocketed, and he wants people in Bainbridge to learn and grow the same way he did.

“Most people have no problem talking in a small group amongst your friends,” Huffman said. “When it becomes a problem is when you speak before somebody you don’t know.”

The newly chartered Port City Toastmasters Club currently meets every other Monday from noon to 1 p.m. Starting in May, they will begin meeting weekly. That one hour is packed full with activities to keep club members busy and quickly develop the skills they’ll need to find success.

Club president Lauren Harrell began the club after she posted on Facebook to gather interest. More than 40 people contacted her wanting to join. Two months later, the club is running strong with 21 members.

“It’s a safe place to get instant feedback from a presentation that you have given to help you enhance that,” club VP of Education Theresa Holloway said, who recently moved to Bainbridge from Little Rock, Arkansas. “Plus we’re meeting people. I’m new to the community and so happy to meet new people.”

Secretary Alan McCann, who has been a member of a Tallahassee, Florida, Toastmasters club for three years, said learning the public speaking skills ultimately boils down to social interactions.

“The first thing people judge you on is your looks, the second is your mouth,” McCann said. “Sometime in their life, they are going to have to speak at a Bar Mitzvah, a wedding, a funeral. If you say ‘ahs’ and ‘ums,’ that’s not going to project a very good image. I think its important for people to realize the club is more than just public speaking.”

Meetings involve one or more “toastmasters” giving a speech ranging from six to seven minutes long. Other club members are in charge of judging, noting the grammar mistakes, timing and even counting the amount of “ums” a speaker says. Hoffman said being a judge is also crucial because it develops strong listening skills.

A word of the day is also chosen at the beginning of each meeting, and speakers are encouraged to include that word in their speech, helping members with their improvisation skills.

The Port City Toastmasters are currently preparing for the first of two district conferences during the year. In two weeks, they will be heading to Callaway Gardens in Columbus to learn and practice in front of other clubs in the district.

“It’s a very comforting and inviting environment to give a speech, and there is applause at the end,” club treasurer David Warr said.

To learn more about Port City Toastmasters, contact Lauren Harrell at (229) 243-6077 or lauren.harrell@bainbridge.edu.