Speakeasty Toastmasters executive members include (back, from left) John Newman, Belinda Woods, Maureen Gallant, Gerald Morneau, (front) Rose Bernard, Susan Marchbank, and Yvonne Gallant.
By Stephanie Drummond, Journal Pioneer
SUMMERSIDE – Gerald Morneau always dreaded making speeches.
“It felt as though my feet would almost disappear from underneath me,” he recalls.
He had heard of Toastmasters, a club designed to help its members become better speakers, listeners and thinkers, but hesitated to join at first.
It was after moving to P.E.I. from Quebec, that Morneau decided to join the Speakeasy Toastmasters club in Summerside.
“I wish I had done it sooner. All those years dreading it.”
The Summerside club was started in 1977 by Horace Crozier who had previously been a member of another club in Ontario. After talking with friends, Crozier and company found the 20 members needed to create the club and applied for a charter.
“I learned how to put my thoughts into a coherent speech,” he said.
At the time, they were the only Toastmasters club on the Island; today there are four.
Crozier will be competing at the provincial competition April 12 in Borden-Carleton.
His favourite part of being a member is the evaluations given by members after their speeches.
“As I got more into it, the feedback and the evaluations have become my favourite. The best thing is seeing people grow and get self-confidence.”
Rose Bernard is also in the competition, competing in the table topic portion – an on-the-spot speech about a surprise topic.
Bernard had seen the ad for Toastmasters in the Journal Pioneer.
“I must go there,” Bernard thought.
Her friend had always encouraged her to continue to learn, and it took her while, but once she attended the meeting, she knew it was for her.
“I always look forward to the meetings.”
Bernard is from Tignish and drives an hour each way to attend the meetings.
“I’d drive even farther if I had to… but please don’t leave Summerside.”
Crozier and Bernard are excited about the upcoming competition and are now practising their speeches, as are other members, Paul Marchbank and John Newman, who will be joining them.
A group of judges voted on who would represent the group at provincials. There will be three from each of the four groups competing.
Like Bernard, most members felt as though they were lacking confidence. Through the club they now feel they have gained it, and have come out of their shell.
Belinda Woods knows the feeling. She also noticed an ad, and wanted to learn to give a speech without notes.
“My co-workers have noticed a big difference. I have a lot more self-confidence. I don’t get butterflies and I can get up and speak to anybody.”
Woods is one of the newest members of the club. Soon she will be reaching her first milestone, 10 speeches.
“It’s exciting. This is a great group of people. You’re always learning. It’s always challenging.”
Anyone wanting to be challenged or gain confidence is welcome at the Toastmasters club meetings. The group meets the first and third Wednesday of each month from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Summerside Sobeys community room.
For more information about the group contact Susan Marchbank, president, at 887-3217.