Mastering communication, speaking and leadership skills

  • Contest Toastmaster Keith Olson (left) interviews International Speech Contest participants Dena Smith Ellis, Nicole Tachibana and Gail Lewis after the February Waimea Toastmasters Club Competition. (COURTESY PHOTO/MARIE FELLENSTEIN HALE)
    Contest Toastmaster Keith Olson (left) interviews International Speech Contest participants Dena Smith Ellis, Nicole Tachibana and Gail Lewis after the February Waimea Toastmasters Club Competition. (COURTESY PHOTO/MARIE FELLENSTEIN HALE)

WAIMEA — It is said that every toastmaster’s journey begins with a single speech.

On Feb. 22, more than 30 people from around the island attended the Waimea Toastmasters Club’s speech contest at Keck Observatory Headquarters. It consisted of two competitions: a 5-7 minute created speech for an International Speech division and a Table Topics division where speakers had 1-2 minutes to respond to an impromptu question.

Dena Smith Ellis, the Waimea Club’s immediate past president, was awarded first place for her speech titled, “Earning My Stripes,” while member Gavin Sebastian walked away with first place in the Table Topics category.

“We have a diversity of ages, cultures, background and experience in our Waimea Toastmasters Club that is seen through speeches presented and leadership styles shown during our meetings,” Ellis said. “This variety of perspectives and approaches keeps our content fresh and our club lively and thriving.”

The Waimea Club, which formed two years ago, supports individuals seeking personal growth and self-confidence. Open to the public, at the bimonthly Wednesday meetings attendees are not pressured into participating and can simply observe. Most often, a dozen or so people attend, creating a safe environment that invites them to move beyond their comfort zone.

Although members’ average age hovers between 40 and 50, two recent members who joined the Club are in their 20s. The male to female ratio is nearly equal.

Attendees not only give speeches but can also provide and receive valuable feedback. Techniques of storytelling are developed to help individuals pave their own path to leadership. Members come from a wide range of professions including aerospace, hospitality, health and wellness, education, retail and public service. In addition, there are members from nonprofit, corporate, media and performing arts industry sectors.

In its first full membership year, the Waimea Toastmasters Club achieved the “President’s Distinguished Club” award — the highest possible award for a club.

In 2016, member Mary Park achieved the title, “Distinguished Toastmaster” — the highest education award possible within Toastmasters International. It recognizes her superior level of achievement in both communication and leadership. Prior to this, Park earned both the Advanced Communicator Gold and Silver Awards. To earn such recognition, she delivered 40 speeches, mostly 5-7 minutes in length, as well as some 8-10 minutes and even 20 to 40-minute speeches.

“Toastmasters has been life changing for me. I am more confident and able to pursue my small and big dreams,” Park said.

As one of the Waimea Toastmasters’ founders, she originally joined the Kona Toastmasters in 2009. Eight years later she reminisces about how she was afraid to join originally.

“I just remember the compelling slogan, ‘Yes, you can!” Park said.

Nearly half a million toastmasters participate in clubs worldwide. The first toastmasters club on Hawaii Island was formed in Hilo 65 years ago.

The next big toastmasters competition in North Hawaii will be the Area Speech Contest on March 11 at Keck Observatory. First place winners in the February contest from Waimea, Kona, Hilo and Pahoa clubs will compete. The general public is invited to attend.

Winners of the Area Contest will advance to the division competition, followed by district contest. The International Toastmasters convention will be held in Vancouver, BC. in August.

Info: Contact Gail Lewis at 937-9768 or visit http://waimeatoastmasters.toastmastersclubs.org

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