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NEWS | March 25, 2014

Toastmasters foster leadership, communication in Airmen

By Airman 1st Class Areca T. Wilson 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Public speaking can be overwhelming, even terrifying to some. For U.S. Air Force Airmen, this skill is essential for professional development as they ascend into leadership positions. Fortunately, the Langley Toastmasters Club is available to teach techniques on how to properly communicate and grow into a leadership role.

The Langley Toastmasters Club, one of six clubs in the Tidewater area, is part of Toastmasters International, the largest public speaking organization in the world with more than 250,000 members. The organization encourages personal growth and prepares its members for the challenges of public speaking.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shanell Howard, 438th Supply Chain Operations Squadron F-16 stock control supervisor, said Service members and civilians are provided a chance to better themselves and accelerate their professional development by increasing leadership and communication skills.

"The overall mission of Toastmasters is to provide a supportive and positive learning environment," said Howard. "Every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which foster self-confidence and personal growth."

Senior Airman Daniel Bruce, 10th Intelligence Squadron web applications technician, said he benefited from exercises such as "table topic sessions," which involves impromptu speaking that aims to eliminate "ahs" and "ums" from an individual's speech. Learning these techniques assists by changing behaviors that may take away the focus of an audience.

"Toastmasters helped my speech capabilities through impromptu speaking," said Bruce. "It also helped me gain an understanding of how to remain calm and handle a leadership role."

The Langley Toastmasters Club celebrated its 10-year-anniversary last August. Since its establishment, the club has won the Distinguished Club award and various top-level and second-level awards.

"There are multiple levels of achievement that a club can earn," said Howard. "As members complete each of their project manuals, they get closer to reaching their goal of becoming more effective communicators and leaders. Every individual achievement helps the club win distinguished awards."

While helping the club in achieving these accolades is important, Howard said members walk away from the program with far more important benefits.

"The club prepares Airmen for Airman Leadership School and prepares noncommissioned officers for NCO academy," said Howard. "It also prepares them for future public speaking roles, briefings, questions from leadership, toasting at special events and the list continues.

"I have learned to delegate, ask for help, organize, prioritize, how to inspire motivate and effectively communicate," she continued. "It has helped me as a supervisor, and I am truly grateful for the qualities I have taken from my Toastmasters experience."

Bruce encouraged those who may not be interested to give the program a chance and reap its rewards.

"Give Toastmasters a chance," said Bruce. "Anyone can join the wide spread organization that allows you to improve yourself."

The Langley Toastmasters Club meets every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month at the Community Commons. Members pay a registration fee of $20, and a monthly $6 membership fee. New members will receive project manuals to keep track of their success and a monthly Toastmasters magazine with tips and guidance for skill growth.

For more information, contact Howard at 225-77377.