Sat | Aug 8, 2020

Jamaica benefits from Toastmasters

Published:Sunday | October 20, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Toastmasters Jermaine Johnson and Faith Ellis at the 2019 International Speech Contest, held in Kingston, Jamaica.

On the first and third Thursday of each month, Pastor Jermaine Johnson travels a round trip of 170 kilometres to be part of the JN Articulators Toastmasters Club meeting experience at the JN Financial Services centre in Catherine Hall, St James.

As a motivational speaker and pastor, he’s keen on accessing the training that Toastmasters provides that will help him to achieve personal and professional development in public speaking and leadership.

“I always look forward to the meetings. The learning environment is supportive, and I receive valuable feedback about how to improve my presentations. The evaluation process is presented in a positive manner to encourage improvement,” he said.

Johnson, who is the communications, education and music director of the North Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, has been a Toastmaster for almost two years. Last year, he emerged as the National Table Topics Contest winner, and then first runner-up in the International Speech Contest for Jamaica this year.

Jermaine is one of more than 450 Toastmasters in 30 clubs across Jamaica who are refining their public speaking and leadership skills.

Faith Ellis, president of the Sagicor Life Jamaica Toastmasters Club and a lecturer at the Vocational Training Development Institute, also relates to the value of being a Toastmaster.

“Unquestionably, joining Toastmasters International was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Accordingly, the benefits of joining have been many. Chief of these benefits is the provision of a platform to practise and improve my public-speaking skills in a safe environment while supporting others as they do the same,” said Ellis.

A Toastmaster for more than seven years, Ellis emerged in April as the International Speech Contest winner for Jamaica; then she later was victorious as the Caribbean Champion of Public Speaking in Bonaire, which led to the Regional Champion title; and she secured one of 14 spots as a World Championship of Public Speaking semi-finalist, at the Toastmasters International Conference held in Denver, Colorado, in August. Additionally, Ellis was the 2016 Humorous Speech Contest winner for Jamaica and the Caribbean.

Toastmasters International, which has its headquarters in the United States, is a non-profit educational organisation that facilitates persons to improve their public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. It has a presence in 143 countries, with a membership of 358,000 in more than 16,800 clubs. The Toastmasters programme was introduced in Jamaica in 1984, with the first club being Trailblazers Toastmasters.


... Club celebrates 95th anniversary

On October 22, Toastmasters International will celebrate 95 years of excellence. As part of the observance, Toastmasters in Jamaica will host a number of activities starting today and ending October 26 to showcase the organisation. Among those activities are Sunday service at the Holy Cross Catholic Church, 77 Half-Way Tree Road today, beginning at 10:30 a.m.; then on Wednesday there will be an outdoor Toastmasters networking meeting in Emancipation Park, starting at 6:00 p.m.

Distinguished Toastmaster Kimberley Conolly, Division B Director of District 81,which comprises Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos, highlighted that “the skills honed within Toastmasters benefits communities at large”.

Said Conolly: “The learning experience is invaluable and is the most inexpensive investment with limitless returns.”

She added: “We celebrate our successes of being a front-runner in the Caribbean for over 30 years. Jamaica is proud and privileged to be home to Eileen Wolfe, past international director of Toastmasters International, who was instrumental in founding Caribbean Toastmasters, now District 81; and Paul Sharpe, the Caribbean’s first district governor, as well as numerous District International Speech Champions over the years.”

Distinguished Toastmaster Donna Knight, assistant director for Club Growth, Division B, noted that membership in Toastmasters is open to anyone 18 years or older.

“People may join one of our existing clubs or start one for the development of the employees of a particular organisation or community. The success of the Toastmasters programme is clearly seen in those who adhere to its core values of integrity, respect, service and excellence as we together mentor one another to become better leaders and communicators.”

Twelve of the Toastmasters clubs in Jamaica are corporate clubs, meaning they are sponsored and operated by a company. Sagicor Insurance Jamaica was the first organisation to establish a corporate club and is home to the first council governor and district governor of the Caribbean Toastmasters.

Tanya Pringle, communication executive for The Jamaica National Group, a founding member of the JN Toastmasters Club, attests to the value that Toastmasters has brought to her organisation, which supports three corporate clubs: JN Toastmasters, as well as JN Articulators and JNGI Tone Setters, which are both open to members of the public.

Pringle also noted that plans are afoot to establish a fourth JN Toastmasters club early next year.

“The Jamaica National Group embraces the Toastmasters programme because of the immense benefit it provides,” she said.

“Toastmasters is an excellent training opportunity for our employees who are members, in that they transfer important skills, such as time management, effective communication, speechwriting, listening and leadership, honed in Toastmasters, to their jobs.”