Toastmasters: Airmen sharpen leadership, communication skills

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
For many, public speaking can be nerve-racking. Even for Airmen comfortable with the spotlight, having to speak in front of an audience of peers or leadership can cause a speaker's nerves of steel to turn into spaghetti, figuratively speaking of course.

To improve these skills, Toastmasters International steps in to help military members and civilians become empowered individuals who are confident in their speaking abilities. 

"Toastmasters (International) is an organization geared to help members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills," said Master Sgt. Christopher Davis, 582nd Operation Support Squadron Detachment 4 superintendent.

"The goal of a toastmaster is to work through two manuals, the competent communication and the competent leader manuals to achieve the title of Distinguished Toastmaster," he continued. "As a group, we help each other to become better communicators." 

A two-year veteran of the organization, Davis said he enjoys the communication within the organization, and the people. 

"I have met some great speakers who have inspired me to become a better communicator," he said. "Everyone helps each other in order to achieve our goals."

When it comes to benefiting military members, he believes taking part in the organization improves basic skills these men and women use daily, and even in their personal lives.

Davis said a goal every toastmaster strives to achieve is improving a person's keen external awareness, which separates the great communicators from those who muddle through their interactions with others.

Toastmaster's meetings flow into three parts. The first part consists of prepared speeches. Every meeting, attendees are asked to present two previously prepared speeches that last five to seven minutes.

The second part is the impromptu portion of the meeting called "table topics." Table topics is a long-standing toastmaster's tradition intended to help members develop their ability to organize their thoughts quickly and respond to an impromptu question or topic.

The final part of the meeting is the evaluation portion, where speakers receive feedback on their performance. It is the heart of the toastmaster's educational program.

"Feedback tells us how to get better and what we did great," said Davis.

Without effective communication, a message can turn into error, a misunderstanding or even disaster by being misinterpreted or poorly delivered, he believes.

While catering to military members, the group is not a military entity, but a nonprofit organization geared toward helping everyone across the U.S. and internationally become effective communicators.

At Malmstrom, toastmaster meetings are held every Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. in the Grizzly Bend conference room. The event is open to all military ranks and civilians.

The hope for Malmstrom's group is more people will learn about this program, participate in it and benefit from it, Davis said.

"I was once horrified of speaking in front of an audience, until I joined toastmasters," said Davis. "I will admit to anyone that I am not the best speaker in the world, but I have undeniably improved myself from two years ago.

"If you want to stand out and become a better communicator and leader, come see what we are about," he said. "Challenge yourself to become better."