In-Ahwatukee Toastmasters has been working to remove "uhs," "ums" and "ahs" from its members for about 20 years and now they're doing the same from a new location and hoping more members will join.
Toastmasters International is an organization that helps improve leadership skills and public speaking in people through a network of smaller clubs. The In-Ahwatukee Toastmasters is one of the older clubs in Arizona.
"The former location was very nice," club president Tracy Baginski said. "The problem is the doors did not always open at 7 a.m. We were at the mercy of a very nice young lady to get there early. It just wasn't conducive. This location has room to grow and good freeway access."
Members of the club hope the new location at Mountain Park Community Church will help them find new members and keep them coming back.
The club meets weekly on Tuesday mornings before most of them leave for work. They have a very structured agenda. The club begins with a welcome from a member of the group who introduces the Toastmaster of the day. The Toastmaster acts as the host.
The introduction is followed by two formal speeches from members. After the speeches they begin "Table Topics," which is when a leader stands and asks an impromptu question to different members of the club. They have a time limit set for each.
Once Table Topics is over there is an evaluation period when each speaker is given some tips for the future and things to improve. A person is assigned to be "Ah Counter" and they give a report at the end of how many "uh," "um" or "ahs" were used. The "Grammarian" gives the report on how well grammar is used. The "Timer" gives a report of who went over or under on their allotted time. Finally, the group votes on its favorite speech of the day and favorite Table Topics.
The Toastmaster gives out the day's awards and the president gives final remarks.
This format not only improves the speakers but also the leadership skills for all of the evaluators.
Currently, the club has about 20 members at each weekly meeting. Each member is assigned a mentor to help them with their speeches. Baginski said mentoring is what brought her to In-Ahwatukee Toastmasters.
"The first time I went through Toastmasters they helped me tremendously," said Baginski, who works as a clinical nutritionist. "I had some very strong mentors. I felt that there was an opportunity for me to give back."
Many members have used Toastmasters to improve their public speaking for work. Others join because English is a second language. Some join just to gain a new skill and make some friends.
"It's not just a club to learn to speak but also to meet people," member Christine Vellah-Magarira said. "There's tons of people here, some of them quite high up in their professions. It's a place to go and sort of develop yourself. You can take the skills and use it in many ways in your life, not just professionally, but personally. It's almost like a long-term investment in you."
The Toastmasters welcome anyone to visit as a guest and to join. It costs $20 to join Toastmasters International and $20 to join In-Ahwatukee Toastmasters. The cost pays for a manual and other one-time fees. Members also pay about $45 for every six months in the club. To join or for more information, visit ahwatukeetoastmasters.com.
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