The Art of Speaking  

Learning to listen

By Ross Freake

Terror turned into terrific for OChristy Wiley when she joined the Penticton Toastmasters Club.

"I was looking for a venue to overcome my fears as well as something that was just simply mine," she said shortly after placing second in the Toastmasters Division K (Okanagan and the West Kootenays) annual International Speech Contest in Penticton.

"As a mom and a professional, my job is to take care of others, I wanted something that was just for me and for my growth and improvement. The Penticton Toastmasters Club meets at the Shatford Centre Tuesday at 6 p.m.

"The club is full of a variety of interesting and fun people from every walk of life — different ages, different backgrounds," said Wiley, who runs her own business, Cottage to Castle Bookkeeping Services.

"I simply enjoy the opportunity to make friends with them, supporting their individual goals and journeys and cheering them on. There is not a single evening in Toastmasters that I have not spent the meeting smiling, laughing and just being encouraged.

"After a full day of working, it's not always easy to drag yourself to one more thing, but once I am there, sitting with my Toastmaster family, I am always so glad that I came."

Wiley, who joined Toastmasters a year ago, is already a champion speaker, but is also working on her leadership skills — an equally important component of Toastmasters — and is on the club's executive board.

"Every time I attend a meeting, I am accomplishing my goals, I am stretching my limitations and increasing my skills.

"Every time I stand up and speak, I am still terrified, I still feel nauseous and my knees are knocking, but now I have the ability to steady my voice, to breathe and to maintain an outward calm that hides the panic attack.

She is also polishing another important life skill: listening.

"The interesting part of Toastmasters that people do not tend to hear about it is the listening part of the program. Yes, you learn to speak, yet the second half is spent listening.

"I am not a good listener and Toastmasters has done wonders for me, helping me learn to listen and hear what someone is saying. My communication with my spouse, my family and my friends has improved immensely as a result."

Most people never step beyond giving speeches at the club level, but she decided to compete because she believes only in complete participation do people get the full value of Toastmasters.

"Toastmasters International is truly an accomplished and proven track for creating leaders who are effective communicators.

"That is my goal. By embracing the entire experience I will become better, stronger, more confident and those qualities are going to improve all areas of my life."

Wiley has two 19-year-old sons and her International competition speech grew from a conversation with a friend about her boys graduating from high school and staying home to go to Okanagan College.

"I was savouring every moment with them before they were gone."

She delivered it as a 10-minute speech at her club, but had to cut out three minutes for the International Speech competition.

"I practised the speech every day, everywhere. My biggest concern was that in the midst of the stress and anxiety of being in the contest, all eyes on me, that I would lose the words, lose the flow, lose the speech. So I had to have it completely down."

She came second to Reen Rose, of the Kelowna AM club, an accomplished and veteran speaker, who also won the division contest the previous year.

Neil Anthes of Westside Toastmasters was third.

Wiley's speech began this way: "To savour something is to enjoy something by especially or completely dwelling on it. Life is made up of moments becoming minutes, minutes becoming hours, hours to days and days to years.

"Before you know it, time has gone by and when it is gone it cannot be undone or redone. So by urging you to savour life, I am simply suggesting that you are aware of the moments that are worth pausing and reflecting on.

"Grab them with both hands and relish the life, love and richness that they hold."

Ross Freake is the president of Kelowna AM Toastmasters.


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About the Author

The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment that offers every member the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are eight Toastmasters clubs in the Central Okanagan.

For more information and/or to find a club near you, check http://www.toastmasters.org.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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