Are you petrified of public speaking?

The fourth Wednesday of each month, from noon – 1pm, a group of motivated employees on Long Island takes on what many call one of the ‘scariest’ things you can do in life. The group is writing speeches about a wide variety of topics; delivering short talks on current events, and thoughts and words of the day. They’re getting and giving feedback. Most importantly, they’re gaining confidence in an area even the bravest of people often shy away from – public speaking.

Toastmaster's international logoThis professional, and personal, development opportunity is available to employees across the company through world-renowned Toastmasters International (TMI).

For a small membership fee, groups of 20 or more employees at various locations meet monthly to work through a program designed to help make them effective speakers and leaders. They support each other and the club at each lunchtime meeting. They receive workbooks, website resources, conference invites and other tools to help ensure their success. And, they’re welcome to attend Toastmasters meetings anywhere in the world and can participate in friendly competitions with other clubs – regionally, nationally, even on the international level.

Our Long Island Powerhouse Toastmasters group (National Grid and PSEG-LI employees) – Mary Holzmann is on the far right; Janet Pietrofere is just left of the banner

Our Long Island Powerhouse Toastmasters group (National Grid and PSEG-LI employees) – Mary Holzmann is on the far right; Janet Pietrofere is just left of the banner

Sound exciting? Members think so!

“There’s no limit to the leadership opportunities Toastmasters provides,” says Mary Holzmann, past president of the Long Island chapter and current public relations vice president, who’s achieved TMI’s ‘Competent Communicator (CC)’ and ‘Competent Leadership (CL)’ status.

Power Generation Safety Advocate Jerry Gasowski is a new member who gave his five-minute ‘icebreaker’ speech about his life and career just a few Wednesdays ago in Hicksville. He was projecting, making eye contact, showing photos, and sharing interesting personal perspectives and stories, like when he was a clammer on the Great South Bay.

“Twenty years ago I was so shy, I couldn’t look you in the eye even in a casual conversation,” Jerry concedes. “Now, I’m striving to be an effective public speaker and feel like I’m on my way.”

Janet Pietrofere, Digital Risk governance manager and Toastmasters’ LI treasurer, was Jerry’s ‘evaluator’ at the meeting. She gave him high marks, saying he was “casual, comfortable and personable.” As for herself, “It’s always teaching me something new. My main takeaways are to stay succinct and on topic; add humor; and, talk about what your audience wants to hear, not just what you want to say.”

Our Powerhouse club at a Toastmasters District 46 (NYC, LI, Westchester) seminannual meeting

Our Powerhouse club at a Toastmasters District 46 (NYC, LI, Westchester) seminannual meeting

TMI participants agree the environment is open and inviting (with an emphasis on constructive criticism); and friendly and supportive (be ready for lots of hand clapping and pats on the back). It’s a chance to meet people outside your immediate circle of coworkers who care about their own success … and yours. “It’s what we call a ‘safe’ environment,” explains Mary. “It’s o.k., to make mistakes and learn from them here as you evolve. In fact, that’s part of the plan.”

And that’s part of the reason people across the company are stepping up to face a fear that maybe isn’t so scary after all. And a reason you might want to make this one of your New Year’s (and personal and professional development) goals this year.

Want to join, or find out more about Toastmasters in your location? Contact Janet Pietrofere, and stay tuned for one more article on this fantastic opportunity for career development and growth. Also be sure to check for announcements in At a Glance for local meeting times and locations. (Dues renewal is coming up for Long Island ‘Powerhouse’ meetings, which will start today – January 27 in Melville, then alternate between Melville and Hicksville each month.)

See our previous article on the Long Island chapter’s award-winning program

Stay tuned for the final article in our three-part series for TMI’s five top speech-giving tips.

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