Melissa Shiplack, second from left, vice-president of membership for Somass Toastmasters, and other members invite the public to an open house on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Learn to speak up and do it well at Somass Toastmasters’ open house

People curious about communicating with others are invited to Feb. 18 event

In celebration of Toastmasters month, Port Alberni’s Toastmasters club will be holding an open house for the public to learn a bit about what they do.

Toastmasters provides a fun and safe environment for people to improve their public speaking skills and build confidence and self-awareness. Members will practice writing speeches and presenting in a group setting, while also working on socializing and networking in a small, supportive environment.

Melissa Shiplack, the vice president of membership, has been involved in the Somass Toastmasters for the past two years.

“I went to a meeting for the first time four years ago,” Shiplack said. “I was invited by a friend. Honestly, it was a bit nervewracking to go to a public speaking event.”

But Shiplack saw the value in Toastmasters, and eventually got involved in the group through her membership with the Young Professionals of the Alberni Valley.

“I realized it wasn’t that scary!” she said. “If you’re asked to speak in public, your instinct is to automatically say, ‘No.’ But [Toastmasters] teaches you the skills to get up and get in front of people.

“It makes me so much more self-aware of how I say things to people and how my communication comes across,” added Shiplack, who works as a nurse at West Coast General Hospital. “It teaches me to be truly involved in the conversations I have. It’s so important for our personal lives, too, to communicate effectively.”

The Somass Toastmasters meet on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce building. The meetings usually include a combination of off-the-cuff speaking and prepared speeches.

“Especially in this day and age, with so much email and texting, being able to communicate effectively with people is a good thing,” explained Shiplack. “[Toastmasters] allows you to build those skills.”

The meetings also allow members to give each other constructive feedback, getting people comfortable with evaluating their peers.

“Another thing it teaches you is to be a good listener,” added Shiplack. “It teaches you to focus on what people are saying.”

The Somass Toastmasters will be holding an open house on Tuesday, Feb. 18. The open house, said Shiplack, will be structured like a general meeting, but a little more “introductory” and “less anxiety-provoking.” No one is required to speak, and there will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions.

“The more members we have, the more dynamic it is,” said Shiplack.

The open house will take place at the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce from 7–8:30 p.m. You can find more information on the Somass Toastmasters Club Facebook page.

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