Gulfport Toastmasters: Empowering the People 

Robin and Wes Riddell visit Gulfport Toastmasters during their reunion on Wednesday, February 26. “I knew that I would visit Gulfport Toastmasters on my trip from Michigan, because this club is part of who I am. Not only as a Toastmaster, but as a person,” explained Robin. Robin and Wes tag teamed as guest speakers for the evening.

No two meetings are alike when the Gulfport Toastmasters meet up every Wednesday from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. at the Gulfport Public Library, 5501 28th Ave. S. 

“Toastmasters, it’s not just about learning how to speak in public but how to listen,” said Gulfport Toastmaster President Brian Wilson. 

“The speaker is trying to engage the audience, but to engage we need to be good listeners,” continued Wilson. “We empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.”

Each meeting features a different speaker who is attempting to climb the Toastmasters ladder. On Wednesday, February 5, Gulfport Toastmasters hosted John Watkis, whose speech was titled “How to make your speech music to their ears.” 

“Can you take the power of music and turn it into a speech?” asked Watkis. “A speech is meant to be written for the ear, with highs and lows.” Watkis had the ear of the audience from the start, his voice deep, his words fluid and melodic. 

A few weeks later, Wednesday, February 26, the club hosted a reunion. Members of old, members of now, and future members came together to listen to Robin and Wes Riddell and Monica Codrey reach another goal. 

As fun as it may seem, the speakers are critiqued. But the rules are simple and the evaluators are peers. Four club members are chosen on a rotating basis every week. One grammarian, one “ah” counter, one timer and one general evaluator. 

“We’re learning, growing and giving feedback,” said alumni Kelly Wright.  

The Toastmaster’s mission? “We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.” 

Monica Codrey addresses the audience during the February 26 meeting, giving her final speech as part of her high-performance leadership tasks. Codrey took what she considered a boring topic and kept the room laughing and engaged for a full seven minutes. Codrey believes she has done a full 180 since joining Toastmasters, going from shy and reserved to one of Gulfport Toastmaster’s most outgoing members.

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