By Colby Gable
On October 1st, High Country Toastmasters celebrated their 10th anniversary in Boone with a special gathering, and featured actor David Andrews as a guest speaker for the event. At a Toastmasters event, members learn by speaking to groups and working with others in a supportive environment. An average High Country Toastmasters club is made of around nine to twelve people who all meet once a week for just over an hour. Each meeting gives members the chance to: learn how to plan and conduct business meetings, give one-to-two-minute impromptu speeches about various topics, present prepared speeches, offer constructive evaluation, and interaction with a flexible learning program which gives you the option to pick which skills you want to focus on.
President of the High Country Toastmasters, Stacey Gibson, began the meeting by talking a little more about why the club is important and how it goes on to impact people saying, “For most of us, constructive feedback in a safe space is not something that’s indigenous to our lives. Occasionally, we’ll have someone who does provide that in our lives, sometimes it’s a teacher, maybe a mentor, maybe a boss sometimes. But sometimes they may not be there as much as you need, and that’s where Toastmasters comes in.”
She went on to talk about how Toastmasters impacted her life and has changed the way she lives on a daily basis, “Six years ago I opened my career coaching business. Nothing could have been further from my comfort zone, than opening a career coaching business. The first thing I did was join the Toastmasters to shed my current and future comfort zones. It helped me bust out of those comfort zones that each and every one of us in this room has. I would not be standing here six years later as a successful business woman if I had not shed countless comfort zones out of my way and opened this door and that door and said ok, I’m ready to grow beyond that…“continuous growth in and out of our comfort zones is the only path to sharing our true value with this world.”
” She also attributes the environment itself and how bringing together people who are looking to strengthen the same areas of communication allows others to feel less pressured about their learning experience. This is attributed through two main ideals in the educational process, “The first one is to give constant consistent feedback on everything we do. And to provide that feedback in a safe space so you can take that and be able to expand upon it.”
Although David Andrews is not an actual member of Toastmasters, he talked about how being in the world of acting for over forty years has allowed him to see how, “There is something from my skills and experience as an actor for over forty years that is transferable to the world of public speaking and that arena.” He tells the story of growing up as a shy child in Louisiana whose life centered around hunting raccoons and snakes in swamps behind his family’s house, and how his own life was somewhat plagued with an inability to grow away from that shyness until running for Vice President in 11th grade. “I walked up to the podium and took a moment, and a very much needed breath, and I began to speak. It was into about thirty seconds and you could hear a pin drop, and I felt some kind of connection to every person in that auditorium. And I didn’t know it then, but that experience of public speaking would eventually be what led to me becoming an actor, and it would shape what I was doing with the rest of my life.”
Introducing Glenda Edwards was the Toastmasters’ Vice President of Education, Katherine Alford, who mentioned how inspired she has become by the leading membership at the High Country Toastmasters and those like Edwards who were fundamental in setting a path to establishing a club here in Boone. Edwards is the Club extension Chair for the Western branch of the Toastmasters, as well as the founder of the High Country Toastmasters, who first attended the Toastmasters club in 2006 in Charlotte where it took over 9 months for her to first give a speech compared to the normal 3 week average. Eventually, Edwards continued attending Toastmaster meetings until she began to have sights for the club to make their way up to the high country, saying, “In 2007 I told Deb I wanted to start a club in Boone…we had a few people starting out and Chetola became our home. We had a number of people turn out, and that became our home. We built up to ten members.” In 2008 when the market crashed, and Glenda lost her job, she was still convinced to make the club official in Boone. After making scheduling changes, nine months later, they had finally chartered with twenty-three members.
“It was going to the international convention with Deb in 2011 in Vegas that changed my mindset. I was always the person behind the scenes, always helping other people to shine. Going to that convention showed me I was capable of that too.” She also discussed some of the growth that the Toastmasters have experienced and will see in the future, “Now we have, currently, 234 clubs in North Carolina. At 240, TI (Toastmasters International) splits the district. I started that split two years ago and that will become official in July 2020. Greensboro West will be District 37 and Burlington East will be District 117.“
Kate Mena, Vice President of the High Country Toastmasters, discussed with us how Toastmaster meetings have impacted her life in a real way, saying, “A new member of Toastmasters asked me to speak about ECRS at her marketing class, which I actually do today. As I was preparing for this speaking opportunity it really hit home how much confidence Toastmasters has given me as well as organizational skills. Something like this would have been daunting before Toastmasters. “ She encourages anyone who is interested or curious to check out the club as “anyone is allowed to come as a visitor as many times as they want.”
To conclude the 10th anniversary celebration, Stacey Gibson also added to us that, “The Toastmasters is a fantastic opportunity for folks who really want to be able to move out of their comfort zones, and to be able to really see what value they can bring as a result of that. We have people who have gotten promotions, people who have taken their skill set to the next level, you’re gonna hear some amazing testimonials in just a minute, but if you want to find out what its really all about, the best way to do that is just to come visit us.”
High Country Toastmasters meet every Tuesday from 5:30-6:45 pm at Saint Elizabeth’s Catholic Church at 259 Pilgrims Way, Boone, NC 28607
From Highway 321, turn onto Meadowview Drive and head south .5 miles. Go straight at traffic light, Rogers Drive will be on your right; Pilgrims Way will be the next right after a slight curve in road.