Powerful Voice

Toastmasters promotes
new beginnings and leadership

Confidence in public speaking
is a major goal of organization

By Nichole Osinski
Contributing Writer

(March 2012) – Her hands were shaking. People were staring at her. Instead of finishing her speech, Ruby ducked behind the lectern box. “I can’t do this,” she said. However, many of the people sitting in front of her had had the same fears when they first began speaking. Eventually, she rose back up, started talking and finished her speech. By the time she left the Madison (Ind.) Correctional Facility, she was one of the top speakers in the Toastmasters Club.

Rodger McKinley

Rodger McKinley

This is what the Madison Toastmasters are about – promoting confidence in people and helping prepare them for the future. The only Toastmasters Club in the area is located at the Madison Correctional Facility. Members have consisted of both offenders and those in the general public. The weekly meetings are held at 5:30 p.m. Thursdays at the correctional facility. Members, as well as anyone interested, meet for an hour to speak, listen and learn.
Toastmasters has been encouraging people to “become more confident in front of an audience” since 1924. Today, the organization has more than 270,000 members in 116 countries.
The Madison chapter was started in 2007 by the correctional facility’s Assistant Superintendent, Rodger McKinley. Already a fan of public speaking, McKinley, 66, was supportive of the idea and in less than a month had 20 members join.
“It can create confidence in people,” he said. “We’ve had many ladies go through this program and it’s like watching a flower bloom.”
Mckinley started out as the treasurer for the club while women in the prison system took the leadership role of president. The previous president, Debra Sue Brown, was released this past month after a beneficial time with Toastmasters.
McKinley has now taken over as president and pulls from his own interest and enjoyment for speaking to lead the club.
His interest in public speaking started when he was taking college courses in South Bend, Ind. He entered a speech competition between four or five schools and placed second. For years afterward he remained interested and when he found out about Toastmasters he knew it was something he needed to try.
Now his wife, Debbi, has also joined and uses the experience for her job as an elementary teacher in Jennings County.
McKinley explains that at first many of the women involved needed a little nudging, but the end results were well worth it. Many started out with the same question: “Can I do this?”
However, most people find that the speeches become easier and not only is it building confidence but building camaraderie. When someone gives a speech, he is critiqued by his peers and evaluated on how he did and where he can improve.
According to McKinley, those doing the speaking want to hear honest answers so they can grow. It isn’t a harsh judging but a way to open up encouragement and help others see they can overcome their fears.
Club members start out with two books filled with different kinds of speeches and instructions on how to prepare. Speakers start out with an icebreaker and move up with inspirational speeches, humorous speeches and even research speeches. There are also opportunities for leadership. Toastmasters provides 10 different projects for members to take leadership positions and earn certificates.
The positions include projects such as being a timer, word counter or evaluator. With each meeting a person can move from speeches of five to seven minutes to 30-40 minutes.
A past president, Diane Spurgeon, is another woman who gained confidence from being a Toastmaster, left the facility and worked her way up to be a successful career woman. She is now married and lives in Ohio.
In the past, McKinley has even had members compete in speech competitions. One woman competed at Indiana University Southeast and won against two skilled professionals. McKinley says that by the end, the competitors were sending her notes stating she had beat them hands down. These are only a few examples of what this club has done.
For those interested in being a Toastmasters Club, McKinley recommends coming to a meeting to first see if it is an area of interest.
“I think it would change their life,” he said. “I would advise them to come to a Toastmaster Club meeting and watch what we’re doing.”
What comes next is simply filling out an application and them paying a due every six months. To help the women in the facility pay their dues, McKinley sets up fundraisers, such as selling pizzas.
Once a Toastmaster, members are exposed to a world where learning is key and progress is inevitable. Those involved can use the experience whether speaking one on one or to thousands.
McKinley, who is planning on retiring in a few years, has not only seen positive results in others from Toastmasters but is an example himself. Even after retirement, he stills plans to be a part of this club. He is confident that people will find out first hand that Toastmasters brings about positive results because, according to him, “What makes the world go round is communication.”

• For more information on the Madison chapter of Toastmasters, call (812) 265-6154, Ext. 228.

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