If you’ve spent the past three years working from home and attending online meetings, it’s likely you haven’t had regular contact with new people.
With masks still often used in public settings, as well as social and physical distancing, many Tri-City residents are out of practice with their presentation.
“We’ve been out of touch with each other for too long,” said Shirley Brown, vice president of education for the Port Coquitlam-based Lincoln Toastmasters club.
“It’s time to turn the corner and brush up on our social skills.”
This and next month, as part of its drive during Toastmasters Month in February, the club is offering a membership discount — plus an open house on March 28 — to tempt Tri-City residents to come out and improve their communication.
New members will learn public speaking by crafting speeches on topics that interest them and share their stories with the group, which meets on the second, third and fourth Tuesday of the month at the Port Coquitlam Community Centre at 7 p.m.
They’ll also be coached on how to project their voice, make eye contact and use body language effectively to impress a general or targeted audience, Brown said.
And they’ll be offered tips on how to do better next time.
The constructive criticism “isn’t just for the person; it’s for the whole room,” she said. “Everybody learns from each other and is very supportive.”
Brown said the Lincoln Toastmasters, which started at Coquitlam’s Lincoln Centre in 1996, has seen a variety of participants with different backgrounds.
Over the years, they’ve welcomed influencers, realtors, nurses, police, managers, comedians, academics and students preparing for university entrance.
They’ve also had a best man for a wedding who wanted to practise his speech after the bride and groom tied the knot, and someone readying a eulogy.
As well, Port Moody Mayor Meghan Lahti was a toastmaster, Brown said, and former PoMo mayor Joe Trasolini took part before he entered politics.
And they’ve seen new Canadians — immigrants from Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East — wanting to sharpen their English pronunciation.
Janice Christie, a Lincoln Toastmasters member, said some people use multi-media to test run their presentation or to give a greater connection to their story.
Still, the art of a Zoom or social media presentation is also taught, as the PoCo meetings remain hybrid for greater flexibility and convenience for members.
“We want to see the full body, not just a face in a square,” said Brown, who noted that lighting and sound quality are key factors for online appearances.
A non profit, Toastmasters has 250,000 members in 12,500 clubs in 106 countries.
This month, B.C.’s Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, on behalf of King Charles III, proclaimed February as Toastmaster Month in the province and declared, in part: “The ability to speak clearly and effectively is a powerful and important skill that can help individuals overcome barriers to effective performance in virtually every endeavour and line of work.”
To learn more about the Lincoln Toastmasters club in Port Coquitlam, visit lincoln.toastmastersclubs.org or facebook.com/LincolnToastmasters. Information about the group can also be found on LinkedIn and Instagram (@lincolntoastmasters).