Last week, we had our monthly toastmasters meeting at BEST. What is a toastmaster? In literal terms, it sounds like someone who is perhaps excellent at making toast for your daily breakfasts, which to be fair is an excellent skill to have! However, in this case, the definition of a toastmaster would be someone who is perhaps presenting a speech, delivering an impromptu talk or proposing a toast to a party. Toastmaster’s International is a non-profit organization that meets up worldwide in order to help members of the public improve on their public speaking skills and leadership qualities. It also helps to promote confidence and allows an open platform for everyone to stand on and make their voices heard.
At BEST, we believe that every individual child has a voice just waiting to be heard. These kids have something to say but probably lack the confidence and the skills to stand up and say it. At least once a month, our Junior Toastmasters’ Meetings allow these children are given the opportunity to stand up in front of all their friends and deliver a speech made entirely by them. They’re also given the chance to hold responsibilities of being the time keeper as well as the ahh-counter (someone who counts repetitive words in a speech and the number of times “errrs” and “hmms” are used, which are unnecessary and distracting in public speeches). These responsibilities give these children a sense of importance that they are able to handle being in charge as well as ensure they are listening at all times to everyone in the room. Toastmasters’ meetings are run by the mother of one of our students who has generously spared time out of her busy schedule in order to help these children find their voice and their momentum.
Toastmasters’ meetings usually begin by the introduction of a quick topic of the day. As we had just finished our cooking competition that morning, naturally, the topic of the day will be what was still fresh in everyone’s mind: Cooking Competition! Children are then given a short period of time to quickly prepare their first speech and five volunteers were picked out of the group. Once all the volunteers had delivered their speeches, feedback was given by the facilitator. Constructive criticism, points that were good and guidance on how to improve on grammatical errors and timing were given to each speaker and the speakers took it all in with an open mind.
The second session was an impromptu story telling where everyone was once again asked to prepare a quick story of their choice. In this session, students are able to showcase their creativity skills in coming up with stories that captivate an audience on the spot. One of our students did not even get a speech prepared but still had the confidence to stand in front of an audience and delivered a great, impromptu story, making it up as he went along. The meeting ended with an official timing of how long their speeches were and how many repetitions were in each of their speeches.
At the end of it, we all learned that in order for a good speech to be given, a speaker does need to have a quick preparation so that more focus can be given to the audience and eye contact should be maintained throughout the speech. It was encouraging when a student took the time to prepare a speech and for those who did not manage to do it, it gave them someone to look up to and perhaps push them in the right direction for future meetings.