Inspiring confidence, Toastmasters International helps people develop communication skills and the ability to think critically during public speaking.
For those who have a fear of speaking in public, Toastmasters offers an inherent cure by … encouraging members to speak in public.
In Woodland Park, Paula Levy leads a revival of the dormant Toastmasters Above the Clouds, which had halted meetings due to the pandemic shutdown in March. Because the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing, the meetings are held both virtually via the Zoom online platform and socially-distant in-person Tuesday mornings at the Woodland Park Senior Citizens Club.
Toastmasters members choose a subject to research, with the goal of educating and entertaining with dramatic delivery — a kind of theatre of speakers.
Levy spoke about the characteristics of obsessive-compulsive disorder. For instance, OCD is not dementia or perfectionism, a trait she acknowledged about herself.
Speakers receive evaluations from their peers, which is part of developing concentration and listening. For her speech, Levy got high marks for organization, but the evaluator, Robert Kittridge, recommended that she use a large font on visual aids for easy access and refrain from reading too much. Read only quotes from a source, he added.
With a flair for the dramatic, Vivian Cobb talked about redirecting her priorities while suffering the effects of COVID-19. Rather than wishing she had more things, more money and a bigger house, she thought about her collection of miniature figurines packed away in boxes for 18 years. “That is sad — because I’ve been collecting those miniatures for longer than I can remember,” she said. “The ceramic and clay miniatures were my friends, part of my imagination.”
Struck down by the coronavirus, feverish and bedridden, with plenty of time to think, Cobb had an epiphany. “I had no idea I’d be in the position of possibly dying,” she said.
As part of her recovery from the illness, she unpacked the boxes. “It took hours to unpack and set them up,” she said.
While speaking, Cobb conveyed her emotions over the enlightenment, her emotions ranging from introspection to laughter to joy over the miniatures. “And, oh! the memories of each,” she said. “It’s what I call the Gift of COVID. Because I did, finally, have the time to think about what’s really important in my life.”
Steve Sato, too, evoked memories to tell a story of chasing and capturing dreams.
“I remember singing at the top of my lungs — Otis Redding. I was seeing this soulful man’s music,” he said. “I was about 6 years old.”
The recurring vision of the man who wrote and recorded “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” inspired Sato to start writing songs — 15 so far. “And I’m learning to play guitar,” he said.
Cobb, Kittridge and Jennisue Jessen drove up from Colorado Springs Oct. 27 to help Levy and Sato host the group’s first meeting since early March. New this time was one Zoom participant.
Toastmasters International World Headquarters is in Denver, where, in August 2018, the organization held its annual conference.
Toastmasters Above the Clouds meets from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Tuesdays at the Woodland Park Senior Organization, 321 Pine St., Woodland Park. For information, call Levy at 331-3640 or visit the TATC Facebook page, bit.ly/2HOrb0I.