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September 27, 2013

The art of communication

Clipper City Toastmasters to host open house Monday

Do you freeze up in front of crowds? Does the mere thought of public speaking terrify you?

The Clipper City Toastmasters want to help.

The club, one of 14,350 Toastmasters International groups in 122 countries, is holding an open house Monday to introduce potential new members to all it has to offer.

“Toastmasters in general is a nonprofit, educational organization that specializes in training people in communication and leadership skills,” said member Jay Jorgenson, the area governor.

Monday’s event will include presentations on how the club works and some personal stories, followed by a question-and-answer session.

“We will have some pointers on topics related to speech craft and leadership,” said Jorgenson, a Newburyport resident who oversees nine clubs in the region.

Jorgenson credits the club with transforming him from a “wallflower to struggling to keep my mouth shut.”

“When I started, I was deadly shy,” said Jorgenson, who joined the Newburyport group five years ago. “I went through high school and college without raising my hand once. It was just time to do something about it.”

Jorgenson is one of about 30 members of the Clipper City Toastmasters, which was formed 22 years ago. Membership in the local club is split evenly between men and women, while Toastmasters International’s 292,000 members are 52 percent women and 48 percent men. That’s a telling statistic when you consider the fact that the organization, which turns 89 next month, didn’t allow women to join until 1973.

Clipper City Toastmasters treasurer Richard Mullen says that people seek out the club for a number of reasons. Some are simply looking to network, while others want to polish their speech skills. Retirees and telecommuters also join as a way to socialize and get out of the house, he said.

And some, like Mullen, end up turning public speaking into a career. The Georgetown resident is a professional speaker and career coach who teaches classes on public speaking, including one starting next week at Newburyport Adult & Community Education.

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