Elana Davidson (left) addressed Moab Toastmasters members during a previous club meeting. The Toastmasters will be hosting an open house on Wednesday, Jan. 17, from noon to 1 p.m. at Zions Bank, 330 S. Main St. [Photo by Murice D. Miller / Moab Sun News]

If the thought of giving a public presentation is terrifying, or you find simply speaking up during a meeting is difficult – you might want to check out Toastmasters, an international leadership and communication organization with clubs all over the world.

The Moab Toastmasters Club is hosting an open house during its regular second Wednesday meeting on Jan. 17, from noon to 1 p.m., with a reception following until 1:30 p.m. The club meets the first and third Wednesdays at Zions Bank, 330 S. Main Street.

“We’ll showcase a meeting,” with time for questions afterward, said club president Elana Davidson.

During the hour-long meeting, two prepared speeches are given, followed by written and verbal evaluations by club members – members learn to listen better as well as speak more clearly in Toastmasters. There are also impromptu “think on your feet” exercises at each meeting. Members quickly improve communication skills via the positive and constructive feedback offered each week.

Grand Area Mentoring Program Director Dan McNeil has been a Toastmaster for the past 10 years, and currently serves as club treasurer. He said he’s learned many valuable techniques for giving good presentations.

“I often test-drive speeches that I give to the community for my work,” McNeil said. “It’s been a real boon for me professionally.”

And he’s not the only one who practices his speeches in front of this nurturing group. The club includes a city council member, a school board member and other community leaders who hone their leadership skills at meetings.

“I have seen so many club members’ confidence grow through this process,” McNeil said.

There are members who were once too nervous to speak up, who now serve in leadership roles and give “really engaging talks,” he said.

Davidson said she already enjoyed public speaking when she joined about a year ago. When she heard about Toastmasters, she said, it sounded like something of value.

“I had less practice with written, formal speeches,” she said. “It was something I wanted to develop more. I wanted to get better at that.”

And, “it’s fun,” Davidson and McNeil said.

“It’s a great way to meet community members you might not otherwise meet,” Davidson said. “You learn interesting things; you learn about community issues.”

Plus, members conquer their fear of public speaking – or at least become better at it. Davidson recalled a member who said she was “petrified” about getting up in front of the group to deliver a speech.

However, “She does an amazing job,” Davidson said. “She still has fear – though it’s never obvious to me – and she gives compelling, engaging, interesting speeches.”

Toastmasters is a self-paced program. Once you join, you receive a “Competent Communication” manual with each chapter highlighting a specific aspect of delivering a good presentation – including topics such as using body language, vocal variety and the “icebreaker,” where the speaker introduces himself or herself to the group.

There are multiple advanced manuals that focus on a wide variety of speaking purposes. Members can also repeat manuals if they wish.

Currently, the Moab Toastmaster Club has about 15 members – and new members are always welcome.

In addition to giving a speech, or being an evaluator, meetings offer additional ways to participate – as grammarian, time-keeper, delivering the joke of the day, et cetera.

“Everybody gets to participate; you learn how to give constructive feedback,” Davidson said. “People can come as guests at any meeting – there’s no obligation to join.”

“There’s no more affordable leadership program that you can participate in,” McNeil added. “It’s a great place to hone your message. I found it’s a great place to stay current – if you don’t practice, you can fall out of touch with it.”

Leadership, communication club hosts Jan. 17 open house

“It’s a great way to meet community members you might not otherwise meet … You learn interesting things; you learn about community issues.”

When: Wednesday, Jan. 17, from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Where: Zions Bank, 330 S. Main St.

Cost: Free

Information: 435-260-1328; www.toastmasters.org/Find-a-Club/00730555-00730555

For more information, call 435-260-1328, or go to: www.toastmasters.org/Find-a-Club/00730555-00730555.