Leadership. Communication. Management. Just a few of the qualities Toastmasters International has built itself on. 

Tina Graham was given the Competent Leader Award for her work through the Toastmasters International Leadership Program. Toastmasters International has more than 332,000 members world wide, according to their website. The Ardmore club is just one of 15,400 clubs in the world and was recently restarted in April 2015 in Ardmore. Graham, who works as an Industrial Coordinator at the Southern Oklahoma Technology Center (SOTC), said that bringing the club back to Ardmore was a group effort. 

“That was a community effort I think,” she said. “And SOTC and Dr. Powell were definitely behind that. I think they helped kick us in gear and really gave us the meeting place and space and a lot of encouragement to do that.”

“Tina is the one who said we need this back in the community and really pushed to get this going,” said SOTC marketing coordinator Darla Buck. “So we got behind her and said, yeah, let’s do this and did some help with promotion and that sort of thing.” 

The club, which meets twice a month, provides members a chance to grow as communicators and leaders. Members can choose between the communicator and leader paths within the club and work toward achieving goals. Graham earned her award by growing her leadership skills. Ardmore member and vice president of membership Larry Minks earned the Competent Communicator Award and competed at a district speaking contest. After completing the “competent” award, members can work toward advanced awards and continue development up through the organization. 

Graham said that being a part of the organization can be helpful in everyday communication and has boosted her confidence in her speaking and leadership abilities.

“It definitely helped my confidence,” she said. “I have 14 years of corporate collections — I could talk on the phone to them all day long, talk to the engineers, talk to the top guys, but if I had to meet them face to face I’d want to hide.

“This is a great program for confidence building either from the leadership side or the communicator side.”

Meetings consist of a precise agenda that the group follows and features speeches, evaluations and other business within an hour timeframe. Speeches vary from table topic speeches to impromptu topics and Graham said the meetings are always a joyful and fun experience for members. Those who give speeches also receive feedback and evaluations from the other members, some of whom have years of public speaking experience. Graham said the ability to receive feedback in a fun and engaging environment is extremely valuable to members, even those who may not want to be public speakers.

“It’s not just I want to go out and be a public speaker,” she said. “A lot of us in business have to speak to somebody and so it’s a good confidence builder.” 

The group, in addition to helping its members, worked with Second Chance Academy to help provide speaking and leadership skills to the students. Graham said the confidence that the students, and the adults, walked away with after the program speaks to its ability to build skills.

“The principal had them give a speech at the end of six months and it was just phenomenal,” Graham said. “These kids that would not look at you at the first day, you know, you make them shake your hand and meet you and greet you and just some of the confidence that came out of it was pretty amazing. So that was a really nice program.”

Graham said the organization hopes to continue to grow in membership and in the skills it provides to members. The club currently has 16 members, with that number changing on a regular basis. Graham said she encourages anyone who is interested to join the club and to become a part of the Toastmasters International community. 

“Everybody should join,” she said. “Families that want to do something to businesses, so it’s really good for everybody. If you’re in leadership or into speaking or wanting to move into leadership or move toward better public speaking — I can’t think of anyone it’s not for.

“It’s a good community group and a good supportive group but you’re also really helping each other.”

The group’s next meeting is Tuesday, July 19, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in Building 200, room 203 on SOTC’s campus.