Saturday, February 04, 2006

Toastmasters, NSA, and The Superbowl

This past week I finally accomplished a couple of goals that I'd been planning for months: attending a Toastmasters meeting and an NSA Stuttering Support Group meeting. It took me a while to finally get myself to go, but both were worth it.

Toastmasters, as I've explained before, is a public speaking organization. When I arrived at the meeting in Marlboro, I found out it was entirely comprised of middle-aged 3Com employees (a company I didn't think existed anymore, but maybe I was just thinking of the ballpark). I felt out of place but everyone in the group was very friendly and welcoming. Everyone seemed like seasoned public speakers, making eye contact and speaking with emotion even when discussing basic chapter functions. During a typical Toastmasters meeting, there are introductions, 2 people who give speeches based on the manual (you need to make 10 successful speeches before you are an official "Competent Toastmaster"), two people evaluate the speakers, one person times the speeches to make sure they are in the required range, an "Um" counter, and a section called Table Topics where people give 2-minute impromptu speeches based on topics given to them by another member. At the end of the meeting, speakers and the various jobs are chosen for the next meeting, and a vote is taken for the best speaker (the winner receiving a little glass trophy). During my first meeting, I didn't actually say anything, but I did volunteer to be a Speaker during the next meeting this Monday (something that drew Oohs and Ahhs from people who might not have expected me to be so forward immediately). As corny as it might be, I can never turn down a chance for a trophy. I think winning an award based on my speaking prowess would be pretty ironic. I'm writing a 5-minute speech about my background, my stuttering, and why I've chosen my field. It might not be the Heisman, (God, I wish it was the Heisman) but I think I have what it takes to win this week. I'm the Reggie Bush of public speaking. If anybody is in a corporate setting and needs to give presentations, I highly suggest Toastmasters, as there is probably a chapter near you, wherever you are. These people are serious about their public speaking, so if you want that promotion, Mr. Fancy Suit & Tie, go to www.toastmasters.org and find a meeting.

Second item on the agenda last Monday was the local NSA Stuttering Support Group meeting at Worcester State. Last semester my Monday class with Dr. Wicka really cramped my style and I never had the time or motivation to go, but this semester I am free those nights. Run by Dr. Melnick, the NSA meeting was very similar to the ones I had attended at UMass, but fewer people attended (four people total including myself and Dr. Melnick). We still talked about our stuttering and addressed some common topics. I was hoping for more people and hopefully next month there will be, but it was still nice to go and I feel like I'm getting involved again. Always a good feeling.

So that's what's been going on. I'll give my speech on Monday and I'll update everyone on how that goes (something tells me I'll need to buy some trophy-cleaner). My Superbowl pick is Pittsburgh to win outright, 31-17, over Seattle. As much as I want Seattle to win, Pittsburgh is a team of destiny: winning three on the road, Jerome Bettis, and Big Ben's cool under pressure. I don't like Seattle, but once the Patriots win again next year, people will forget about Seattle just like they forgot about Tampa Bay in 2003. In any case, if the Pats can't win it this year, at least Indy won't either. We can thank the Steelers for that.

Till next week.

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