Try Toastmasters for a flying start

Colin Oliver
Colin Oliver

Everyone has a story to tell and for those who are a bit shy about public speaking, help is at hand.

The Lower Waikato Toastmaster’s club meets twice a month, and is dedicated to communication and leadership skills development, says newly elected PR head Colin Oliver.

“I heard about the group earlier this year and it’s teaching me a number of skills and techniques; thinking on my feet, confidence in speaking in front of people and leadership. We’re a small, friendly club and keen to welcome new members – we all learn together.”

The Lower Waikato club is one of the oldest in the Waikato and was formed in 1971 by what was known as the Flying Squad – a group of dedicated Toastmasters who travelled around the country in a light plane, flown by Hamilton watch maker and jeweller Clive Pryme.

Number 8 Network talked with Flying Squad member John Gallagher, whose father Bill (snr) started the Gallahger Group. John, now 77, provided backup support on the ground in his ‘swift’ Mark 4 Zephyr.

“This was in case of bad weather or if the plane fell out of the sky. We attended meetings all over the country.”

While he never flew, he was delighted to help spread the word about the organisation, which started in Dunedin in 1961.

“Toastmasters was in its infancy then, I joined in 1969 because I felt I needed to improve my speaking and leadership skills.  It made a huge difference.”

He says he was a ‘shy, young boy brought up by his grandparents on a farm and terrified of his teacher in his first year at school.

“Toastmasters was wonderful.  I climbed up the ranks, taking various offices and in 1974 I spoke at the world conference in LA.”  And, with brother Bill, grew the family business to what it is today.

His recommends anyone to join – “And put some energy into it.  It may be daunting, but at least you’ve tried.”

Toastmasters itself says the enthusiasm created by the Flying Squad was so infectious that by the middle of 1972 membership increased from 599 to 1120.  Full district status was granted in 1972.

The organisation itself started in California, America in 1924 when a club was formed to ‘to afford practice and training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings, and to promote sociability and good fellowship’ among its members.

One of the Lower Waikato club’s activities is co-ordinating a school speech competition, which is open to all primary schools in the north Waikato area. This encourages pupils to present their speeches well, and gain confidence.

Anyone over 18 is welcome to attend the monthly meetings which are held every second Wednesday at the Taupiri War Memorial Hall from 7.30pm – 8.30. Coffee/tea supper supplied.

  • For further information, phone Colin on 021 2453650 or email.
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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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