Ever feel nervous speaking in public?
Jasper now has its own Toastmasters club for those looking to get better at public speaking and gain some confidence.
“We're going to be meeting weekly, so people get the opportunity to keep practicing to develop these skills,” said Charlotte MacFarlane, one of the club’s organizers.
“And it can be anybody who wants to improve their public speaking … conquer that fear, even just to practice and perform, get out of their comfort zone.”
Founded in 1924, Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking skills through a worldwide network of clubs that meet online and in person.
Among other activities, members prepare and deliver speeches, respond to impromptu questions and give and receive constructive feedback.
Wanting to become a better public speaker, MacFarlane posted on Facebook to see if anyone was interested in starting a Toastmasters in Jasper, and municipal councillor Wendy Hall was among those eager to do so.
Before the municipal election, Hall had joined the Evergreen Toastmasters Club in Hinton to sharpen up on her public speaking skills.
“And then when COVID restrictions were lifted, driving in and out was not really an option,” Hall said.
“I know they have a hybrid model where you can Zoom in, but I thought it would be really cool to start a chapter in Jasper.”
Hall was aware there was a Toastmasters chapter in Jasper years ago and wanted to bring it back.
After connecting with MacFarlane, she chatted with Marianne Garrah from Habitat for the Arts about hosting the meetings at their location.
As of last week, 15 people had reached out to Hall about the club.
The club will meet at Habitat for the Arts, and Joan Petruk from Camrose will help guide the program for the first six months.
“I think it's definitely for everyone because you're going to need a very diverse group of people, and there's going to be people who are already great at speaking like Wendy, for instance,” MacFarlane said.
Other members such as her, meanwhile, won’t be as good but will be surrounded by others at their skill level who are seeking to improve.
“I know it's going to be a challenge the first few times, but the more we develop that community and the friendliness in the group, it's going to get easier, so we do need the whole diversity,” MacFarlane said.
Hall emphasized how fun and informal Toastmasters can be.
“It's for everyone, and it's not just for people that public speak. It's for anyone that wants to improve their speaking.”
Jasper Toastmasters will meet every Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Habitat for the Arts (500 Robson Street) in the Rotary Room starting Feb. 8.