2011-01-21 – The West Seattle Herald – “Earlybird Toastmasters Club Catches the Worm”

Earlybirds Toastmasters Club catches the worm


In contrast to the negative rhetoric that seems to have overtaken political and talk-show discourse lately, The West Seattle Earlybirds Toastmasters Club promotes civility in speech. For instance, one member who spoke in front of the others described his “bad-ass” bicycle he was designing as a topic. The evaluator who assessed his talk said he was great, but that there was no need for the word “ass” or other swear words to project his topic with passion.

Earlybirds is one of three Toastmasters groups in West Seattle and meets at ArtsWest Friday mornings, 7:45 a.m.- 9:00 a.m. Members are literally on stage as they address their audience in theater chairs.

What is said is valued, but not as much as how it is said. Upbeat evaluators who are seasoned Tostmaster members offer gentle corrections to speakers to boost their confidence and communication skills. Issues that seem to vex include nervous pacing, erroneous hand gestures, lack of eye contact, and those pesky um’s. In addition to the evaluator, all members scrutinize each others’ speeches with evaluation forms. There are one-minute speeches given by each member on one topic, unknown in advance. Three, five-minute speeches follow. Those are planned ahead.

“You can deliver a killer speech standing in one place, but you were walking back and forth,” evaluator Shawn Terjeson told a fellow member with a bit of tough love. “It was unmotivated. Always remember that power of the pause.”

Terjeson, a West Seattle resident, has been a Toastmaster member for 11 years. Toastmasters International is said to be the most recognized name in public-speaking training with over 12,500 clubs worldwide, and three in West Seattle. The Daystar Club meets at Daystar Retirement Village at noon the second and forth Monday each month. The West Seattle Toastmasters Club meets 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at The Kenney Retirement Community the first and third Tuesday of each month.

The West Seattle Herald featured the Daystar Toastmaster Club last July here:


Some Earlybird members are, you might say, “earlier-birds”. They meet to chat at nearby Bakery Nouveau between 6:30 a.m and 7:20 a.m., then walk to ArtsWest. Their chatting is not evaluated there, but their pastries might be.

Earlybirds time-keeper Peter Beeson holds a sort of mini traffic light, with a green, amber, and red bulb that flash speakers to stay within their one or five-minute limit. Some obey the signal. Others get distracted and continue through the red light.

Beeson also evaluates and appeared perky at 8:00 a.m as he listened to Steve’s one-minute talk about his dream to open a catering business this year, and a restaurant to follow. The theme given was realizing your goals without procrastinating in 2011.

“My passion is food, barbecue,” said Steve with broad gestures that convinced in one minute. “I see this huge, big rack of barbecue ribs right above me (…) This year I am actually going to buckle down. I need to work toward that goal.”

“When you were talking about food, your arms went up. It was brilliant,” Beeson effused, focusing on Steve’s style. Steve seemed pleased. Beeson and Terjeson liked the style and story of another member, a West Seattle real estate agent who realized her dream at the end of 2010. They felt she packed a punch in her 60 seconds.

“My business is here,” she said. “I can’t really go off on a vacation to Thailand very easily (…) But I decided I could take salsa dancing lessons. My husband doesn’t like to salsa dance. He doesn’t like to dance. He doesn’t like to get off of the couch. I convinced him after a year and we registered for lessons.”

Another, Michelle, said, “One of the things I’ve been thinking about is running a half marathon (…) I came up with a million excuses- my knees. Or ‘I don’t have enough time’. (A friend) Teresa told me, ‘Do it because it scares you’.”

Many members acknowledged they joined Toastmasters for the same reason, because public speaking scared them.

“Ten years ago I checked out this club and fell in love with it,” said Bonnie Verhunce, a member and host. “I improve my listening skills, evaluation skills, and work on getting rid of those ‘um’s and ah’s. We have a wide range of ages here, and we have fun. We are not as rigid as other Toastmaster groups.”

“This group makes me laugh,” said Alki resident Judy. “And I just love to laugh.”

The Earlybirds said that guests are always welcome to check them out:

ArtsWest, 4711 California Avenue Southwest.

To join, the yearly membership fee is about $55 which helps Toastmasters, Intl.

To find out more about area Toastmaster groups go to: www.d2tm.org.