Toastmasters club celebrates 800th meeting

Gordon Metter said he first joined Table Bay Toastmasters in 1973.

The Table Bay Toastmasters club, which aims to give people a platform to improve their public speaking, held its 800th meeting on Monday evening.

Long-time member and Sea Point resident Geoff London, said the club’s first meeting was held back in 1968.

The club is the second oldest toastmasters club in the country.

“Originally it was a men’s only club and 25 years ago it opened up to women as well. In those days it was quite common to have men’s only clubs,” said Mr London.

He said the venues and numbers of members have changed through out the years but the goals have always remained the same – which is to give people the courage to speak in public.

Mr London, who has been a member of the club for 30 years, said toastmasters originally started in the United States to help young people speak in public.

From there, it became a worldwide organisation with thousands of members.

He said there are more than 100 clubs in Southern Africa.

One of the challenges of being a non-profit organisation, said Mr London, was the lack of funding.

“It doesn’t have a high profile because there is no money to advertise.”

He added that most people found out about the club through word of mouth.

One of the biggest challenges, he said, was finding a venue, but they’ve been meeting at the Ritz in Sea Point for the past six months.

Of the impact the club has on its members, Mr London said: “We’ve seen massive growth and how people have improved. Kids tend to be less scared of public speaking than adults. Adults are very scared of public speaking so this helps.”

While Toastmasters don’t accept members younger than 18 years old, they do run short courses at schools and companies.

Members can only join for a minimum of six months.

Mr London said he originally joined the club after a public speaking engagement did not go very well.

“I didn’t speak properly, no one listened and I did all the wrong things.”

Why has he been part of the club for such a long time? Because “you never stop learning,” he replied.

Oranjezicht resident Bill Constantine said he first experienced toastmasters when he was a member of the US Air Force.

It helped him with leadership and teaching skills. When he moved to Cape Town seven years ago he joined the Table Bay branch. He said one of the most important things he learned from toastmasters was courage to “push demons aside and be able to do what a lot of people don’t want to do.” The second important thing is discipline.

Gordon Metter, of Constantia, congratulated the club on reaching the milestone of 800 meetings.

Mr Metter joined Table Bay Toastmasters in 1973 as a newly appointed sales representative. “I knew all the technical stuff because that was part of my training.”

The challenge, says Mr Metter, was getting the message across. “I learned the four cardinal rules of Toastmasters was attention, interest, desire and get the customer to take the action.. What I learnt at toastmasters throughout my career has put me in good stead and enabled me to speak without all the notes that would be necessary.”