On May 1, 1978, a little club to help people develop public speaking skills was chartered in Langley.
Forty years — and hundreds of speeches later — the Langley Toastmasters Club 2743 continues to thrive and help change the lives of its members.
“Before I joined, I knew I needed to improve my speaking, especially in front of a group. My mannerisms, my body language, my voice tone, eye contact — all of those key things,” said Jason Johnson, who is president of the Langley club.
“And what I tried doing was reading books on the subject, thinking this would improve. It improved my knowledge, but the only way to develop a skill is to get up in front a group and do it.”
With that in mind, Johnson is inviting the public to help celebrate the club’s 40th anniversary at an open house this Tuesday, May 1.
Drop by the Timms Community Centre Multipurpose Room #2 from 6:45 to 9 p.m. to learn more about the club and the services it offers, enjoy some refreshments and meet new people.
The club is also inviting those who are former — and even original — members to attend and be recognized at the open house.
Those who join will meet weekly on Tuesday evenings from 6:50 to 9 p.m. to present prepared speeches, practise impromptu speaking through ‘table topics’ and learn to evaluate others.
Johnson says the skills he has learned through Toastmasters have been invaluable to his career.
“One of the things I really like about our club — I’ve been a member for three years now myself — is that it’s a very open learning environment. So you can really work on the key skills that are important to you,” he said.
“For myself, as a manager of an industrial distributor, I found that I was getting opportunities to speak at some training events. I never had a problem with getting up in front of a group, but I found that I wasn’t very skilled once I got up there. So that’s what led me to Toastmasters.
“And one thing that kind of surprised me was the leadership aspect. Most people think about Toastmasters as a way to improve your speaking, but there’s a very large leadership factor involved in regards to growing your skills as a leaders.”
Toastmasters — which is part of an international network of more than 35,000 clubs — has developed a communications and a leadership manual that members work through at their own pace. The club is open to anyone aged 18 and up, whether the person is a business professional, a university or ESL (English as a second language) student, or someone who simply wishes to improve their socializing skills.
“The one thing I’ve noticed, being a member for three years now, is that every single person that starts — whether they are very inexperienced, very nervous when they get up in front of the group or they already have a very solid base — everyone develops and gets better,” said Johnson.
“You can see the progression week to week. So that’s one of the great benefits.”