Recently, I was invited to The SF Rainbow Toastmasters. It was a fun-filled evening as members presented and critiqued three speeches. In addition, there was a round of table topics where members stand up and have 1-2 minutes to offer their best to response to impromptu topics.
We sat down with Rainbow Toastmaster, Michael Platania to learn more.
How did the Rainbow Toastmasters begin?
Ken Stram was the founder. He started the club about six or seven years ago. He was the Economic Development Director at the SF LGBT Center and thought this would be a good program to have. He eventually left the center and Rainbow, but we are very excited that he has recently rejoined Rainbow!
Why an LGBT chapter?
To give us a safe space to speak and share our stories without fear or worry about what we say.
I’ve been to a lot of other toastmaster clubs, many are very good, but none quite like the group at Rainbow. We have had many guests visit us from other clubs, who also say Rainbow is unique in Toastmasters.
What does a member experience in Toastmasters?
You learn how to be a better communicator and how to be a better leader. It is a self-paced program, so everyone gets to learn and progress at their own pace. One of the unique parts of the toastmaster experience is the supportive, encouraging atmosphere. It’s all about building people up, focusing on their strengths.
Is Toastmaster a level like a black belt? Does one earn their Toastmaster status?
Yes, there are various levels. The first in “Competent Communicator” which is achieved after giving your first 10 speeches. There is also a “Competent Leader”, after filling a certain number of roles at meetings. (every meeting has a variety or roles – speakers, times, evaluators, etc) From there, you go on to a Bronze level, Silver Level, and ultimately DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster) – the top level. Many people, once they achieve their DTM, then start all over and go through the process again. Some people are working on their 2nd or 3rd DTM.
Sounds like grad school
hehe – for some it can be. The people who are on their DTM are very motivated. Some people just do a few speeches.
What about the contests?
We have contests twice a year – one in the spring and one in the fall. The fall contest is a humorous speech contest, and an evaluation contest (evaluating a speech). When someone wins at the club level, they proceed to the Area Contest (an area is 4-5 clubs). From there is the Division Contest (a division is 4-5 areas) and from there to the district contest. We are in District D – from SF to Monterey.
In the spring is the International speech contest which involves winning speakers from around the world competing. This year, it will the International contest will be held in August, at the international convention in Orlando.
Have you had Rainbow members go onto upper-level contests and how have they done?
In 2010, I made it to the District Humorous Speech contest. There were eight competitors from the District – I did not make it into the final three. We’ve had others get to Area and Division levels, but I think I am the only one that made it to the District.
Rainbow Toastmaster Mike Barsul was the 2010-2011 (our calendar year is July 1 to June 30) District Governor. He is now running to be on the Toastmaster International Board of Directors, representing Region 2 – the Pacific Northwest). The election will take place at the International Convention in Orlando, in August.
If someone is interested but afraid of public speaking, what advice would you offer?
Come check us out. You can just sit and watch, have a fun night, maybe learn something, without any pressure or obligation.
If someone wants to learn more?
They should come check out a meeting. It’s free and all they have to do is show up – no prior registration is needed. They can observe how the club work and have some fun without any obligation or commitment or need to speak. If they have questions, they can email to us firstname.lastname@example.org
Are there any other LGBT Toastmaster Chapters?
I know there is a LGBT chapter in New York Pride Toastmasters www.pridetoastmasters.com/– probably a few others but not sure. Also, people can check out our website rainbowtoastmaster.org, or for more general info – toastmasters.org website.