By Jeff Morris, Manotick Messenger
The world has changed a lot in the past 25 years.
If you think back to 1996, the world was just being introduced to Pokemon and Tickle Me Elmo. Oprah started her book club. Everyone was doing the Macarena. And the world wide web reached 100,000 websites across the globe. One of those sites was a brand new online auction site called eBay.
And in April, 1996 in Manotick, the Manotick Toastmasters Club was formed. While the club has kept its small town charm and friendly atmosphere, the club’s meetings, leadership and speakers have helped the Manotick Toastmasters deliver a world class experience.
“We’re a Manotick club, but we have members from the city and all over Eastern Ontario,” said Cindy Little, VP of Public Relations for Manotick Toastmasters.
Little has been with the club for more than 11 years. After winning the area contest earlier this year, she took part in the Division A International Speech and Evaluation contest last month. Her experience with Toastmasters has also helped her with various public speaking and presentation ventures professionally and at local schools. She also hosts a health podcast.
Karen Stillman, the Manotick club’s president, talked about how Toastmasters has helped her grow as a person and a professional on a podcast with Little.
“I came to Toastmasters not for a fear of public speaking,” Stillman said. “It was to develop a polished presentation – to have a presence and not just be comfortable, but to have that confidence, and to increase my leadership skills and abilities.”
The club’s focus over the last quarter century has been consistent. Toastmasters provides local residents with a chance to meet new people and network while and improving their public speaking skills, impromptu speaking skills, and listening skills.
The mission of a Toastmasters club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.
The Manotick Toastmasters club has been known for its leadership and mentorship since its inception. One of its charter members, Chris Ford, a retired general in the military who was the President of Toastmasters International in 2007-08.
“We have really leaned into that mentorship piece of Toastmasters that’s available to all clubs,” Stillman said. “It’s available to all clubs but it’s one of the key components that we work with.”
Little said one of the unique things about the club was that it draws a diverse group of people.
“We have a wide range of people in the club,” she said. “We attract people from all professions. We have students, professors, retirees, business owners, government workers – just about any age group and background.”
Over the years, the Manotick Toastmasters have met at various locations. They were originally upstairs at the Miller’s Oven, then they moved to the Manotick Legion, and then moved to the Manotick Library. For the past year, the group has been meeting via Zoom webinars.
“There have been advantages and disadvantages to having our meetings on Zoom,” Little said. “We have lost a few members who like the in-person meetings, but hopefully they will come back. A lot of people are also Zoomed out, because they are on Zoom all day for work and may not feel like being on Zoom for our meeting. But on the other hand, it has enabled us to keep meeting, and for many of our members who don’t live in the area, they don’t have to deal with the travel and the time spent commuting.”
Not only is the group diverse, but Little and Stillman both say that everyone has a sense of humour and has fun at the meetings.
“This is a fun bunch,” Stillman said. “I just love going to meetings and having a great time, and getting my speeches done and doing the leadership piece.”
The virtual 25th anniversary celebration will feature fun and entertainment, along with door prizes and other activities. Special guests include Toastmasters International President Richard Peck, along with founding Manotick club member and former Toastmasters International President Chris Ford. Meet and greet starts at 6:30 p.m. April 26, with the meeting beginning at 7 p.m.
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