Applause ushers Sacramento District Program Analyst Kathern Bond toward the stage where she will answer the question, “Is it better to fail or to not try at all?”
She only has a moment to prepare her answer, but this Table Topics Speech Contest is nothing to fear.
As a member of the employee-established J Talkers Toastmasters International Club, Bond sees this as a time to exercise her public speaking skills.
Since 2014, Bond and other district members of J Talkers have been meeting at least twice a month to not only prepare for competitions like this one, but to become better communicators and leaders in order to achieve personal and professional goals as unique as their backgrounds.
Cost Engineer Diego Benavidez joined J Talkers in 2014 to become a better speaker as a disability awareness advocate. Today, he is confidently speaking at work events and in the Sacramento community.
“I found that I’m more productive at work because I have confidence to speak up in meetings and communicate effectively about my projects,” Benavidez said.
It’s also educational,” he added. “We get to know co-workers we wouldn’t normally interact with and are always learning about interesting topics.”
But the group doesn’t just encourage growth; it recognizes it. After recently delivering his tenth speech, Benavidez became a certified ‘competent communicator’ as part of the club’s educational program, which offers members both a communication and leadership track. The ultimate goal is to become a ‘Distinguished Toastmaster’ by completing a series of projects and guides in either or both education tracks.
While members often join to improve their communication skills, the club encourages members to share roles and responsibilities that also facilitate leadership skills, as Civil Engineer Carisa Mai found.
After joining to improve her English, her second language, Mai said she’s able to translate her ideas more clearly and effectively at work. Today she is club president.
“You may have the best ideas, but if you can’t connect with your audience, the message might not be received,” Mai said.
No matter who you are, the club offers an open, friendly environment to practice public speaking, learn from others’ techniques, receive constructive feedback, develop listening and time management skills, and most importantly, gain confidence to speak up.
As the club’s motto states, ‘every toastmaster’s journey begins with a single speech’. And by embarking on this journey, employees not only learn to speak up, but they also discover whether it’s better to fail or to not try at all.
As Bond wrapped up her speech, she told the audience, “It’s better to not fear failure because that’s how you find out who you are and what drives you.”
She walked off the stage as first place winner.
For more information about J Talkers, email Carisa Mai at Jiayu.Mai@usace.army.mil.