Toastmasters talk it up and listen up

Laughter, applause and a real sense of accomplishment is what every member of the new group of story tellers feels when they share their history. Every Tuesday afternoon at Franke Tobey Jones in Tacoma, they learn so much from and about each other that it has become a group of friends.
“In this group, I found I could muster up the confidence to get up and talk and enjoy it. It’s a great experience,” says Joan Bannister, a Franke Tobey Jones resident, who first came to the group because she heard the laughter and felt this was where she needed to be.
Recently I attended a memorial service of Randy, the husband of a good friend of mine. I didn’t know him well, but attended to support my friend who was going through a rough time. It was a fun memorial, if you can call a memorial “fun,” with a crazy Hawaiian shirt theme, wonderful Hawaiian food, great camaraderie, but most of all, stories. When I walked into the room, I didn’t know much about Randy, but when I left I felt like I’d known him all my life. The stories that loved ones shared about Randy warmed my heart, made me laugh, made me cry, and made me wish that I had the opportunity to know him when he was alive.
I left wishing I could tell stories like that. Stories are so powerful. Stories, when told from the heart, connect us in ways like nothing else. However, few people know how to tell a story well. They give too much back story, drone on for 20 or 30 minutes, list arbitrary details that mean nothing to you, and putter out at the end, leaving you wondering what the point was. It can leave you feeling confused and unfulfilled. Because you have a story to tell, it deserves to be told well. You need to practice. You need to become an expert at telling your own story.
“In a small room at Franke Tobey Jones, a sincere cadre of loyal speech givers (aka storytellers) gather to share their life experiences,” Robin Swenson comments, as she wouldn’t miss this Tuesday hour of fun. “It is just an hour a week, but the length and breadth of the tales told are vast. The topics are based on each person’s experience growing up, or working and traveling throughout this world we share. There is usually an invigorating or a poignant story told and then a lively and spontaneous round of ‘table topics’ which requires a quick response to a random topic. There’s usually lots of laughter and a genuine desire to know more. And no one speaker can covet the stage too long, since a timer keeps everyone in check.”
According to writer Jeff Goins, you only think you know your story well. Telling it helps you make sense of your life — why certain events happened the way they did. You begin to examine what has happened to and through you. You begin to make sense of who you are. Telling your story can be incredibly therapeutic, and the practice often leads to greater confidence and understanding of self. Most people don’t take the time to do this. They take their stories for granted; they don’t steward them. Take the time to learn your story.
Do you have this desire to tell your story but just can’t quite put it into words? Maybe you’ve been asked to share some stories about your life at your favorite club, or at a memorial, or maybe your kids, grandkids or even great-grandkids have wanted to hear about your life. So many of us have lived full and interesting lives and have had such wonderful experiences. We want to be able to pass along these stories to our family and friends. Even if we don’t personally think our lives have been all that interesting to our family…they want to know all! The good, the bad, the ugly, the funny…it’s all worth telling.
Writer Robert Atkinson says, “There is power in storytelling that can transform our lives, and stories told from generation to generation carry this power in the enduring values and lessons about living life deeply, they pass on. Our own life stories can be tools for making us whole; they gather up the parts of us and put them together in a way that gives our lives greater meaning than they had before we told our story. The stories we tell of our own lives carry this transforming power too. Our stories illustrate our inherent connectedness with others. In the life story of each person is a reflection of another’s life story. In some mysterious, amazing way our stories and our lives are all tied together.”
If you’re like many of us who really want to learn how to tell your story, visit a brand new Toastmasters Club, the Tobey Talkers, held at Franke Tobey Jones every Tuesday afternoon at 3:15. This is a great group of folks who love life, want to learn how to tell their story and have fun in the process. This one hour per week is a great way to practice.
“I’ve been in Toastmasters off and on for about 15 years,” says Abbie Watter, a Tobey Talker Toastmaster. “When we moved to the Pacific Northwest, one of the activities I hoped to find at Tobey Jones was a Toastmasters Club. Now that we’ve started one, I’m so pleased. The folks in the club range from experienced to complete newbies with many experiences to tell us about their lives before they came to live here. This is a wonderful way to spend an hour a week. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
And another member, Ruth Daugherty, says, “Toastmasters is an opportunity to meet amazing people who tell fascinating stories. Most are true life experiences, but some are so creative they mesmerize me.”
If you desire information about Tobey Talker Toastmasters, call Christine Hall at 253-756-6350.

Christine Hall, who wrote this article,

Members of the Tobey Talkers Toastmasters Club take turns telling stories and speaking at weekly meetings.
Members of the Tobey Talkers Toastmasters Club take turns telling stories and speaking at weekly meetings.

is the senior director of marketing and public relations at Franke Tobey Jones.