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Toastmasters build leadership through public speaking

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Gaither
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Public speaking is one of the hardest tasks for many people but there’s a secret helper at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that offers guidance and support in overcoming this sometimes intimidating obstacle in Professional development.

Toastmasters is often a name people only associate with public speaking, but according to Keith Allen, distinguished toastmaster and the Wright Way Toastmasters vice president of education, it is much more than simply learning how to present material to others.

“Toastmaster is self-paced and builds leadership skills in a small, supportive environment,” Allen said. “It helps improve self-confidence, competitive advantage at work and in the community, helps members think on their feet with impromptu questions during table topics, and give and receive constructive feedback during speech evaluations.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 75 percent of people rank public speaking as fear No. 1, more than even death itself. For some, this means a fear of speaking to large groups. To others, it’s having dialogue with a single person if that individual is a supervisor, interviewer or professor in position to evaluate you.

The overall focus of Toastmasters is to improve communication skills with others. They accomplish this through 11 different educational learning paths, including Leadership Development, Motivational Strategies, Innovative Planning, Presentation Mastery, Persuasive Influence and Engaging Humor.

In addition to improving personal communication abilities, one’s listening, planning, mentoring, and team-building skills are also strengthened.

“It also helps to be more persuasive and confident in presentations, speeches, and thinking on your feet,” Allen said.

There are currently two Toastmaster groups on base. The original Toastmasters, or Tarmac Toastmasters, were established in 1999. Tarmac Toastmaster meetings are held in Area B and meet on the first and third Wednesdays at 5 p.m.

Twenty years later, the Wright Way Toastmasters formed. This group meets in Area A every first and third Tuesday at noon.

“All meetings are virtual for now and accomplished on Zoom only,” Allen said. “Meetings are twice a month for one hour.  Typically participants see benefits within a few months, depending on if they utilize their online lessons, projects, and fill meeting roles and give speeches regularly. (Those individuals) will reap the benefits quicker than those who do not.”

Allen noted participants attend for different reasons. Some may have a requirement to give presentations at work, others want to better themselves and be competitive for promotions, or they have a goal to give a big TED Talk.

For many, it’s just the desire to become better at public speaking and answering impromptu questions, he added.

“Senior leaders have even attended before to improve on their public speaking skills with other senior leaders on and off base, for commander calls and town hall meetings,” Allen said.

“Participating in table topics regularly helped them improve their impromptu toasts, recognize team and individual accomplishments, and answer questions more smoothly without filler words such as um, uh, but, like, and so.”

Whether looking to build on a personal desire to improve your public speaking, think on your feet with impromptu questions during table topics or compete with other speakers from 145 countries to become the World Champion of Public Speaking, Toastmasters is available to help with your goals.

For more information on Toastmasters and how you can participate, contact Keith Allen at