Public speaking is terrifying for most people. Yet, it is a required skill of almost all community and civic leaders. In an effort to address this need from members, the League began sponsoring a Toastmasters Club. The goal was to give members access to an internationally recognized program, in a supportive environment where they could hone their skills to be local change agents.
Cara Powell is a first year Active member and currently serves as the Secretary of JLT’s Toastmasters Club, JLT League of Speakers. By day, she is a successful attorney practicing at Tampa Bay Family Law & Mediation, P.A and mother of two. Joining the JLT League of Speakers meant she was focusing on her development. Cara wanted to tackle a lifelong fear of public speaking, knowing a boost in her confidence would accelerate her success in her career and her ability to serve the community.
Recently Cara had the opportunity to step up to the podium to share about her path to League and Toastmasters. Despite her nervousness, Cara described the meeting atmosphere as warm. “Every time someone new takes a turn to speak at the podium, they shake hands, and everyone claps. For everything. It is oddly encouraging and invigorating.”
Her speech was a delicate balance of information and humor, engaging the entire audience as she shared her story. After she finished, she heard from her evaluator, an equally nerve racking experience. “She is thorough, and intense,” Cara explained, “I expected nothing but the absolute truth from her. I was thrilled she enjoyed my speech.” Her efforts were recognized beyond her individual evaluator, and she went home with the night’s Best Speaker award.
Feedback is an important piece of the Toastmasters experience. “The feedback is constructive, but kind,” says Powell, “No one ever feels poor after feedback.” This environment is fostered by members showing up week after week to develop their skills together. The consistency builds a trust; while each members brings different experiences, they are all striving to become better speakers and leaders in our community. When Cara gets up to speak, she always reminds herself, “These are the women I have spent every other Wednesday with for the last six months… they are not here to judge me, but here to help me!”
Summing up the Toastmasters experience with the League Cara says, “We have fun, we help one another, and hone our speaking and writing skills in a safe space.” These are the spaces the League has been building for over 90 years. Spaces where women like Cara can build the skills they need to impact our community for the better.