QUINCY -- When Ray Reed was hired in the sales department of a large company, one of his first tasks was to give a 45-minute presentation.
He wasn't prepared for that, and after his attempt, the company president invited him to be his guest at a meeting of Toastmasters International.
Decades later, Reed continues to be part of the organization, serving as president of the Quincy-based Gem City Toastmasters, the only club within a 100-mile radius and serving Illinois, Missouri and Iowa, and sharing his skills with others hoping to build or maintain their own.
The Gem City club meets every other Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. at Hope Lutheran Church, 1739 Harrison. An open house, planned for this Wednesday, will help guests explore how the club can help meet their personal goals for increased confidence in public speaking and leadership.
The open house meeting will feature speakers ranging from beginner to advanced drawn from the club's 17 members.
"It's a wonderful organization of people who are new to any kind of public speaking and those of us who have done it most of our life," club member Deborah Lee said. "There's so many careers where it's important to know how to think on your feet, to be able to do program presentation and talk eloquently. Toastmasters is a help for that."
Toastmasters, launched in 1924, has grown to more than 357,000 members in more than 16,600 clubs in 143 countries with the goal of helping people become more confident speakers, communicators and leaders.
The club's last meeting featured a presentation on the word of the day, nitty-gritty, by Dan Tanna, and talks by Ivan Paul and Rick Maxwell, with Margie Williams serving as toastmaster for the day in charge of keeping the hour-long meeting. Speakers were evaluated, and Lee tracked the number of "filler" words used by the speakers while Soneeta Grogan served as timekeeper.
"You learn a lot about public speaking, about impromptu speaking or speaking on your feet," Reed said. "We learn a lot about organizing a speech, about the use of filler words and how to correct ourselves from using ‘and' and ‘uh' all the time."
At the same time, members have fun and gain a sense of accomplishment from the club which just celebrated its 10th anniversary helping people find more success in their career, job or volunteer roles.
"We know that when people are new, often they're nervous about speaking, so we really try to make people feel comfortable," Lee said. "It's wonderful to watch people mature in their skills of speaking month after month. It's really fun."
Gem City Toastmasters will hold an open house meeting from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday at Hope Lutheran Church, 1739 Harrison.
Reservations are appreciated but not mandatory.
More information about the club is available online at toastmasters.org/Find-a-Club/01130739-gem-city-toastmasters or facebook.com/gemcittoastmasters/ or by contacting Ray Reed at 573-221-1516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.