Komen Toastmasters, founded more than 15 years ago to help members advocate for breast cancer research and treatment, continues to help its members acquire both public speaking and leadership skills. Today, Komen is a community toastmasters club, open to everyone over the age of 18. They meet in the basement conference room of the Southwest Neighborhood Library twice a month.

According to one member, “Komen Toastmasters has been instrumental in improving my ability to speak in front of large groups with confidence. At work, I organize and facilitate meetings for a staff of more than 40 people, and Komen has provided the knowledge and practice to help me make these meetings more productive, efficient, and—if you can believe it—fun!”

Another member, who joined Komen to help her transition back to work after having children, found that Komen gave her the public speaking and leadership skills to land a position as executive director of an organization. She was required to give a speech as part of the interview process for this job, and practiced that speech at Komen. In her words, “the awesome feedback from the speech evaluator and other club members surely gave me the edge over the competition.” She also said, “my insight from all this is that Toastmasters builds leadership skills not only through leadership roles, but also through leadership traits as reflected in the speeches we make. The speech-making qualities of body language, word choice, and pacing are all reflections of leadership skill. When we speak, we tell the audience what kind of leader we are.”

People join Komen for various reasons. One woman joined to help her prepare to give a toast at a friend’s wedding, another to prepare to give the eulogy at her father’s funeral when he eventually succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease. One man joined to help him talk to people with greater confidence.

As Distinguished Toastmaster Vann-Di Galloway says, “I love seeing shy people blossom with the confidence from being able to express themselves without fear. I have seen members overcome stuttering problems and a stroke victim use Toastmasters as part of his speech therapy recovery program. I have transitioned in my career thanks to Toastmasters. This program works.”

Members of Komen Toastmasters work on their public speaking and leadership skills while having a good time. Jokes and laughter punctuate many meetings, especially during table topics, a portion of the meeting when members practice speaking off the cuff, responding to a question.

Komen meets at 10:30 a.m. on the first and third Saturday of every month. Visitors are always welcome.

By: Christina Scheltema

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