Toastmasters Helps West Siders Like Andrea Ciletti Handle High-Pressure Public Speaking

“When you think about getting up and presenting a brief to a room filled with high-ranking military officers…” This sounds like a recurring nightmare someone might have — but it’s part of Andrea Ciletti’s job.

As a disaster management researcher, Ciletti facilitates training and exercises for civil-military operations. Recently she’s been involved with disaster management and humanitarian assistance exercises in Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Two years ago, Ciletti joined the Kapolei / University of Phoenix branch of Toastmasters International, a membership organization that helps people improve their speaking and presentation skills. “I always wanted to become a better speaker,” she says. “I’ve had some great Kumus and leaders in my life thus far … speaking just comes so easy to them. This is not the case for me.”

Ciletti says she’s kept going because she’s seen improvement. Not that it’s been easy. “Every time I give a speech in my Toastmasters club, I ask myself: ‘Why am I doing this?’ Because it sucks to be nervous. But I embrace it because through it I gain strength and confidence. Toastmasters has given me the confidence to speak to any audience,” she says.

Including those high-ranking military officers.

University of Phoenix Supports Kapolei Toastmasters

The concept of Toastmasters has been around since 1905, when a YMCA employee launched a series of classes to help local businessmen improve their speaking skills. Toastmasters has 16,000 clubs worldwide — there are more than 50 on Oʻahu alone.

The “Phoenix Rising” Kapolei branch has 25 members. They meet twice a month at the University of Phoenix. “To us at the campus, Toastmasters provides an opportunity for club members to develop and enhance real world, transferable skills,” says George Carroll, Community Relations Specialist at University of Phoenix Hawai’i Campus.

“It’s why we support the club. It aligns with our mission.” The university’s support is why the official name of the club is the Phoenix Rising Kapolei Toastmasters.

Carroll is also the VP of Public Relations for the club. He adds: “I believe Toastmasters is the best value in personal and professional development in existence.”

“Working adults need to continue to grow their knowledge and sharpen their skills in a rapidly changing world – even after earning their college degree,” says Carroll. He points out that communication and leadership skills are two of the most sought-after skills — and exactly the two skills that Toastmasters aims to develop.

The Basics of a Toastmasters Meeting

Every Toastmasters meeting follows a similar rhythm. At least two members give a speech. Each speaking member has an assigned evaluator who provides constructive feedback about the speech. Other members have assigned responsibilities during the speech too, like the “Ah-Counter,” who tallies “ahs,” “ums,” “likes,” and other unnecessary utterances.

For the rest of the members (and any guests who happen to be present), The Table Topics session is their chance to speak. Everyone is given a minute or two to speak extemporaneously in response to a question or topic.

After nearly two years as a member, Ciletti has seen her skills improve and her commitment to the club strengthen.

“I feel like it is an opportunity for growth,” Ciletti says. “I believe I am part of this bigger family dedicated to self-improvement.”

Guests are welcome at all Kapolei Toastmasters meetings. The Kapolei club meets on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of every month, from 4:30pm-5:30pm, at the University of Phoenix Kapolei, Room 116/117. You can just show up, or contact the club for more information.