The group meets at Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen on Crenshaw.
By Megan Reed
Public speaking is a skill that can help many professionals, and there is no better place than Dulan’s on Crenshaw to develop that ability.
The Divine Nine Toastmasters hold their meetings at the soul food kitchen on the first and third Tuesday evenings of the month. Toastmasters International is a global organization that is designed to help people improve their abilities in giving verbal presentation, and to develop leadership skills.
The Divine Nine Toastmasters was created by members of the Los Angeles National Pan-Hellenic Council, which is a collaborative organization of historically African American, Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities. While this chapter was created by Divine Nine members, it is open to non-Greeks.
“What’s interesting about our club is that it’s pretty much people from all walks of life and from various careers,” said Nikiah Hawkins, chapter president. “Some people join because they have a fear of public speaking, and this provides them an opportunity to work on that in a more intimate environment.”
This group has informative, humorous, and energetic meetings while offering its members tips and feedback about their communication skills. The comments given are meant to inspire the members.
“After you do your speech, everybody claps,” Theodore King said. “They pump you up, and then they give you feedback. They give you constructive criticism on things that you need to improve upon.”
Members are taught the techniques of giving a speech, such as how to prepare for it, how to stand properly, and how to make eye contact with the audience.
Many people become nervous when giving speeches, which can make it difficult to communicate a message properly. Toastmasters gives its members the opportunity to overcome these issues.
“It helps you build the confidence to be able to stand in front of people and conduct meetings and give various presentations,” King said.
There are various type of speeches given during a typical meeting. Some speeches come from topics presented at the meeting, where speakers create two-minute speeches off the cuff. Other speeches are from topics that are given to the speaker well before the meeting. Those speeches are longer, and allow the person to prepare for it before the meeting.
Speaking for longer periods can seem like a tough task, but when a person is properly prepared, the time can move quickly on a ten-minute or longer speech.
“Sometimes you think that it’s a long time, but once you get going, you’re like ‘man, I can talk about this forever,’” King said.
Each meeting has a designated person who leads the agenda, which can help people who conduct meetings at their jobs. These meetings also prepare the members who participate in speech contests on a district and national level.