It took Peg Klinck 12 years to complete 10 speeches, but that is the great thing about Toastmasters, she said.
A person can get as much or as little as they want out of the program and work at their own pace, she said. Her pace, which was the butt of a good-natured joke Tuesday at the Huntington Beach Toastmasters Club, did speed up.
The Fountain Valley resident is now one of only two members to complete both the communication and leadership track, earning herself the recognition of Distinguished Toastmaster.
Toastmasters is an international organization with more than 250,000 members in more than 100 countries. The organization is broken down into individual clubs, with seven in Huntington Beach and three in Fountain Valley, with about 20 adults who come together to improve their communication or leadership skills for personal or professional reasons. Members can concentrate on one aspect or work on both simultaneously.
Members take turns running different portions of the hourlong meeting, giving speeches on various topics and critiquing and timing each other, club President Shawna Daigle said.
Klinck got involved with the club in 1990 after realizing she needed leadership skills and wanted to be able to present her ideas clearly. Public speaking wasn't intimidating for her; it was just frustrating not being able to express herself.
"What bothered me the most is what am I doing that I'm not conveying my basic message?" she said.
Through the organization, she learned how to express herself clearly, avoid filler words and improve her leadership abilities.
Klinck stuck with the program even after she stopped working in 2001 to stay active and continue improving herself to give back to the community.
"The only way I can pay back the people who taught me," she said, "is to pay it forward."
The club meets from noon to 1 p.m. every Tuesday in room B-8 of City Hall at 2000 Main St.
Three tips to become a better speaker from Toastmasters Division Gov. John Muse
Speak on something you are passionate about.
Remember that you are the expert, so your audience appreciates you sharing the information.
Any time you get a chance to speak in public, do it.