David Rivera was laid off from his Web design job in 2006. He knew he was extremely proficient in his job skills, but there was an element he thought he was falling short.
"I thought one of the reasons was because I wasn't able to communicate my ideas very well," said Rivera, 45, of Oldsmar. "I needed some help in that area."
Later at a networking group, someone suggested Toastmasters International as a resource. Rivera attended and became a member of the Oldsmar Top of the Morning Toastmaster International club.
Meeting 7:30 a.m. every Wednesday, Rivera worked his way through the levels and became the president of the club.
"I realized what a good group this was and I was exercising good speaking abilities every week," said Rivera, who ended is one-year stint as president last week. "It wasn't a book, a CD or something you were doing on your own. You have projects and goals and every week you receive valuable feedback. They absolutely have helped me."
Toastmasters International was started in 1924 and helps build solid pubic speaking skills. Whether it's the ability to speak in front of large groups or in social settings, the organization claims to help to build confidence in any communications situation.
"I had a need in my life because I had a fear of public speaking," said Arnie Milnes, 59, of Tarpon Springs, the owner of A Arnie's Dependable Appliance Service. "I knew I was going to have to have help to face my fears, so I joined Toastmasters."
Milnes is now the president of the Oldsmar club, which started in 2002. Though the club's membership has fluctuated, there were about 20 people at the June 30 meeting. Several speeches were given at the meeting.
With great detail and controlled emotion, Karen Kelliher told the group that life is full of embarrassing moments and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it but laugh.
Kelliher, of Odessa, weaved a hilarious tale about going to a night club with a friend. Feeling like she was the best looking woman in the club because all eyes were on her, she was later told by a professional hockey player that she had toilet paper dangling from the back of her skirt.
James Simms of Tampa talked about the day the music died. It was in 1984 when his nephew was murdered. He incorporated the tragic deaths last week of two Tampa police officers. He passed around a picture of his nephew.
There are several Toastmasters chapters throughout the Tampa Bay area and they are open to everyone. Each person is given a goal to meet and they are evaluated on those goals.
"We try to find out what their goals are so we can try and meet them," Rivera said. "We try to have people come and test it out. They see how important communicating with the public is and you are so much more enriched by it."
Chris Kanclerowicz of Tampa is one of those who visited before joining the club five months ago. A Web developer who is hearing impaired and uses hearing aides, Kanclerowicz said he struggled having basic conversations with people.
"I'm a computer geek and I didn't have a lot of public speaking skills," said Kanclerowicz, 25. "I network a lot better now. Even on the phone, I'm carrying on a much better conversation than I would before."
Contact Demorris A. Lee email@example.com or (727) 445-4174.
* * *
There are several Toastmasters International chapters in Tampa Bay. Anyone can attend a meeting at no charge. To join, there is a $20 membership fee and national dues are $27 annually. To check out clubs throughout Tampa Bay, visit www.toastmastersd47.org.
* * *
The local club
The Oldsmar Top of the Morning Toastmasters club meets every Wednesday 7:30 a.m. at Aston Gardens 12951 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa. Local dues are $24. For more information, visit www. oldsmar.freetoasthost.us or contact David Rivera at (727) 278-9888 or e-mail him firstname.lastname@example.org.