Club leaves members anything but speechless

NEIGHBORS

July 23, 2002|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN DAN McClanahan became print production manager at the Pennysaver, he was comfortable that he had the graphic-arts skills needed for the position. Also, his work as a plate maker had made him familiar with the machines and mechanical processes involved in producing the weekly magazine.

Still, one part of his job made the Crofton resident nervous.

As a manager, he would be responsible for making oral presentations at company meetings about such topics as production and safety. Unfortunately, like many people, Dan was not a confident public speaker. He would get nervous and feel butterflies in his stomach before making a speech.

So Dan's brother Tim suggested that he join Toastmasters, a club that helps people develop their public speaking skills. Toastmasters had helped Tim and he thought Dan would benefit from the experience of sharing communication, ideas and experiences with a group of supportive friends.

That is why, nearly three years ago, Dan joined Crofton Chesapeake Toastmasters, which meets twice a month at Crofton Town Hall. Each meeting, which is organized and led by a member, begins with "Table Topics," a chance for the group to discuss a topic of interest on an extemporaneous basis.

Next, one or two members give prepared speeches on topics ranging from their personal lives to business interests. The group then has a chance to evaluate the speech, pointing out the good things the speaker has done, as well as offering suggestions for improvement, in an atmosphere of respect and support.

Even at the club, Dan was nervous about taking his first turn at the podium. But he remembers an incident that made a difference.

At one of his first meetings, the speaker was a man suffering from a kind of palsy that made it physically difficult to speak. As soon as he began his talk, the group became totally silent. They were "floored" by the strength shown by this man as he struggled with his words yet maintained an air of confidence. His determination made a strong impression on Dan.

"It was such a boost," he remembers. Seeing that man overcome his physical difficulties made it very clear to Dan that he, too, could conquer his fear of public speaking.

And so he did.

Within a few weeks, Dan was ready to give his first speech to the group. Since then, he has grown ever more confident in his speaking ability, learning from experience, from comments shared by his fellow Toastmasters and through watching other members speak. Sometimes, when speaking on work-related topics, such as safety issues, he finds the group to be a great sounding board, helping him organize his ideas and presentation, even his gestures, more effectively.

Dan has become increasingly involved in the Toastmasters, even serving as president for a year. In fact, he became so enthusiastic that his brother Tim has now transferred from his old Toastmasters group to join the Crofton club.

Crofton Chesapeake Toastmasters meet at 7:15 p.m. the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at Town Hall, at the intersection of Crofton Parkway and Duke of Kent Drive. Guests are welcome.

Information: 410-721-0595 or 301-621-7302.

Church labyrinth

The sanctuary of Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church in Crofton, will be open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. tomorrow for people who would like to take the meditative seven-circuit labyrinth walk. Information about the labyrinth is available at the church, as well as a journal for recording personal thoughts related to the experience.

Information: 410-721-2313.

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