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LARSON: Gwinnett Toastmasters has something big to talk about

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

Gwinnett Toastmasters really have something to talk about. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. They always have something to talk about. That’s why they join Toastmasters, so they can get up in front of an audience to talk.

Actually, there’s more to it than that. Jay Hickson, Gwinnett Toastmasters President and State of Georgia District 14 Sergeant-at-Arms said it’s not just all talk.

“Toastmasters helps its members become competent communicators, to not only be able to speak, but to get their message across. And it also helps people develop listening skills and leadership strengths,” Hickson said.

But it’s not only communication skills that Toastmasters helps people expand. The diversity of people they get to communicate and interact with is another big advantage.

“Toastmasters has introduced me to the finest people I have ever known and given me a vision I never had in working with people,” Hickson said. “I believe my business, which was successful, would have been even bigger if I’d gotten involved in Toastmasters sooner.

“It has put me in communication with people from all walks of life. One of my best illustrations of this was when I judged an International Speech Contest in Pittsburgh many years ago. The second-place winner was the Attorney General of Nebraska, which you might expect of someone working in politics. But the first-place winner, the best Toastmasters speaker in the world that year, was a plumber.”

Hickson is not alone in his assessment of Toastmasters. Because of the importance of good communication skills, Gov. Nathan Deal has declared May 8-14, Toastmasters Week in Georgia. Deal acknowledges the contributions Toastmasters has made to helping Georgians improve their communication skills and use them to the benefit of the community.

“For over 65 years, Georgia Toastmasters volunteers have mentored their club members, helping them develop public speaking and leadership skills,” Deal said. “The result is that several generations of citizens who may have previously lacked confidence and ability have now become competent and effective leaders in our communities’ schools, businesses, faiths and governments. Many of these new leaders use their new-found voices as advocates for ‘those who have no voice’ in Georgia’s numerous charitable endeavors.”

Gwinnett Toastmasters, which was established 37 years ago, meets at 7 a.m. on Fridays at Matthews Cafeteria in Tucker, a place chosen back when there wasn’t a venue large enough to accommodate the club in Gwinnett. But the county has grown, so has Toastmasters.

There are now more than 20 clubs all over Gwinnett County, and Toastmasters is always eager to help start new ones. If you would like to improve your speaking, listening and leadership skills, Gwinnett Toastmasters would love to talk with you. For information visit www.gatoastmasters.org

Susan Larson is a freelance writer who lives in Lilburn. Email her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.