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Toastmasters Offer Help With Public Speaking


The Louisville area is home to more than two dozen chapters of an organization that helps people deal with what for some can be life's most terrifying experience---public speaking.

This meeting of the St. Matthews/Lyndon chapter of Toastmasters is a special one. there's a humorous speaking contest today. It’s at the unfunny time of 6:45am, but it doesn't take long to forget the early hour, its a collegial group of several dozen including some guests invited for the contest.Toastmasters was founded in 1924 to teach public speaking and leadership skills. The non-profit now has more than 12-thousand clubs in 113 countries.St. Matthews Toastmaster Michelle Peterson, a postal service employee, says a friend suggested she join the organization."I needed to practice on speaking more, because I am very comfortable with people that I know in small groups, but in unfamiliar situations with new people, I tend to be very quiet," she said.        Michelle has not only become more comfortable speaking in public and in large social groups, she’s worked up the courage to begin her spot in the contest with a brief song…..part of her seven minute presentation called “Finding My Voice.”"At the age of 40-something I decided it was time to conquer the art and skill of speaking to strangers, people my mother told me never to talk to, and larger audiences," she told the group.Graham Honaker (left) works in the development office at the University of Louisville. He trotted out a Powerpoint presentation to accompany his monologue on how his infant daughter learned some of her bad habits from some prominent figures in the news."She’s my only daughter, I love to spoil her, right. Here she is with Elmo, another prominent redhead. I like to give her these gifts when she did something good, when she finished a meal, when she slept through the night, that was rare. But she wanted gifts at any point in time, whenever she did anything good or bad. And I thought, where did she learn that you could get and award or gift for a accomplishingabsolutely nothing?" he said.And up pops a slide of President Obama accepting his Nobel Peace Prize last year.Then there’s John Blim (below right), marketing director for the Crusade for Children. He says Toastmasters helps its members overcome that paralyzing fear that can come with addressing a group of people, a needed advantage in the competitive business world.               He cites the old analogy of being more afraid to deliver the eulogy than to be the deceased.But he says it’s also about fellowship and personal growth.           "I do a lot of presentations for my job, and what’s best about this club is the feedback you get from the other members. It’s not about me it’s about me, helping, and that’s what makes it really good," Blim said.His presentation was entitled, “If My Kids Hear This, They’ll Kill Me.” In which he shared anecdotes about living with two daughters ages 10 and 12 and about getting older.Other contest participants include Brian Rogers (below left) a transplant from Detroit who’s in the insurance business.He talked about his experience with "Southern hockey," specifically, a night out rooting for the IceHawks, Louisville’s now-defunct minor league hockey team. And there was Keith Rouda (below right), a business talent recruiter, who talked about his problem with procrastination.After brief deliberations, the Toastmasters judges awarded the contest’s top prize to Graham Honaker.                           "I would say today’s more difficult than the normal meeting, because you have to give a good public speech but you also incorporate humor, and making people laugh or trying to make people laugh can often be very challenging, so you have to combine two things with the contest we had today," he said.                  Honaker moved on to the next level of competition this month. The Toastmasters continue their regular get-togethers, talking, speaking and offering support.

Rick Howlett was midday host and the host of LPM's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." He was with LPM from 2001-2023 and held many different titles, including Morning Edition host, Assignment Editor and Interim News Director. He died in August 2023. Read a remembrance of Rick here.