Kyle Jensen / The Record Langley resident Bill Marshall uses a visual aid while practicing a speech at the first open house for the local Toastmasters chapter, South Whidbey Sound Off.

South Whidbey Toastmasters chapter aims for new members

Whether they’re aiming to overcome the fear of speeches, impress their employer or simply touch up their English as a second language, the members of South Whidbey’s Toastmasters club share a common goal — to help each other become comfortable in front of a crowd.

But without a few additions to the already eclectic organization, South Enders may not have a place to take a crack at public speaking.

The local Toastmasters club, South Whidbey Sound Off, is hosting an open house Monday, Nov. 28 in an effort to drive membership to ensure the public speaking club’s livelihood. The organization, which has chapters across the world, has helped everyday people, business executives and elected officials alike with their speech-giving skills.

Everybody uses the club for different reasons. Inspirational speakers, a former Swedish Air Force fighter pilot, a Croatian-born businessman, a bingo manager and a real estate agent are some of those who make up the group. While the club has enough members to continue as an official chapter, it’s at the tipping point. The loss of just a few members might force it to merge with the chapters in Oak Harbor or Everett.

And according to club president Clyde Bock, that could be a shame because the group is practical for everybody.

“If you’re in any profession, sooner or later you’re going to have to come up in front of a large group of people and give a speech,” Bock said. “People avoid public speaking entirely, but it’s such an important life skill to have.”

Bock said some are encouraged to practice with Toastmasters by their employers, who would like to see more confidence when in front of a room of their peers. Many international South Whidbey residents use it to hone their English-speaking skills. The local Toastmasters chapter has members from around the world, and although their English is quite good, sometimes they simply wish to tell others of their experiences as effectively as possible.

“People find each others’ stories entertaining,” Croatian-born Felix Kristanovich said. “Even from my experiences back in Croatia, stories of adventures, skiing and bear encounters in Alaska are entertaining to people. The beauty of Toastmasters is it helps with this part of speaking and for professional improvement.”

Mark Tucker, on the other hand, uses it to perfect his craft.

Tucker is a Clinton-based motivational speaker. He travels the country to preach personal development in places where that might seem hopeless: detox centers, prisons, treatment centers, etc. He’s written a book about overcoming his own addiction and the depths to which it plunged him, and has appeared on national television to discuss his book. As polished a speaker as he may seem, Tucker says the training has allowed his skills to blossom.

“Toastmasters has helped me inspire people with my words and how I deliver them,” Tucker said. “It’s one of the greatest arts in the world to be able to inspire people; you can’t put a value on that.”

The next open house is slated for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28 at Trinity Lutheran Hall. The meeting is held at Grigware Hall. For more information, contact Bock at (360) 222-2092 or

Kyle Jensen / The Record Stig Branfords, a member of the local Toastmasters chapter South Whidbey Sound Off, holds up a red card to mark the end of a speech time limit.

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