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Toastmasters aim to provide development for Tinker employees

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Tinker employees can improve their communication skills by participating in their local Toastmasters organization. This is a non-profit educational organization that helps their members become more confident in their public speaking abilities and provides a "learning environment in which to develop communication and leadership skills," Genevieve Betts, Toastmasters sergeant-at-arms, said recently.

Professional development was the theme of the Feb. 12 first-ever joint meeting of the Tinker Toastmasters, the Noon-Flight Toastmasters and the Limitless Toastmasters clubs.

"We sometimes fail, but we always try to succeed with class and positive encouragement," said Heath Holt, KC-10 Engineering Supervisor and president of the Tinker Toastmasters Club.

During the joint meeting, Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, Air Force Sustainment Center commander, participated in a discussion on leadership and became the second honorary member of the Tinker Toastmasters Club. The first was Dr. Douglas Blake, then-director of the 76th Software Maintenance Group.

"To be successful, you have to touch everybody in your organization, to connect to them in one way or another," the general told the Toastmasters. "And you have to be able to communicate within and outside your organization. The better you can communicate, the better you can connect, the more successful you will be."

Toastmasters meetings last an hour and feature several speeches that vary in length from a couple of minutes to 10-15 minutes apiece. "It teaches our speakers to be brief but concise," said Mr. Holt, who has delivered 55 speeches in the two and a half years he's been a Toastmaster.

During the "table topics" session each week, three Toastmasters are required to stand up and answer, impromptu, a question about a particular subject (often pertaining to one's career or politics) for 1 to 2 minutes.

"That teaches you to think on your feet," Mr. Holt said.

Members are graded on how well they answer the questions, the number of "uhs" and "ers" they utter, etc. A "Grammarian of the Day" helps fellow Toastmasters improve their language and speaking skills.

The Tinker Toastmasters also conduct a "speakathon" every three to six months.
"Normally a speakathon has specific speakers who give special types of speeches, and the speakers are often special guests," Mr. Holt said. "The last one we had at the 76th Software Maintenance Group had Mike Jennings, the deputy director for the 76th SMXG, speaking about leadership, while I spoke about how to prepare for federal job interviews."

Lengthier Toastmasters speeches typically are appraisals, brief-ings, humorous, inspirational, how to deliver bad news, etc. "The intent is to learn how to handle any number of situations you may encounter at work or in public," said Mr. Holt, a retired Air Force captain. "Toastmasters is a good learning experience."

Another benefit of Toastmasters is networking. "You get to meet some of the top-level leaders on this base, and some company executives, through Toastmasters," Mr. Holt said.

This is the 55th year of the Tinker Toastmasters Club, records reflect. For more information on Tinker Toastmasters, visit http://1362.toastmastersclubs.org.