Confidence in Front of an Audience

by Jun 27, 2023Around Town, Community, South Brunswick

Brunswick County Toastmasters Club helps people overcome their fear of public speaking.

Statistics indicate that 75 percent of the American population suffers from glossophobia, that is, the fear of speaking in public. Job interviews, toasts at events and even simple a “thank you” can send a person into panic mode. The causes for this reaction vary, but people who have overcome the fear often credit Toastmasters.

Mari-Lou Wong-Chong of Holden Beach says she had an anxiety disorder and often wouldn’t leave her home for days. She accepted the invitation to attend a Toastmasters meeting in Pittsburgh, and the speaker’s confidence impressed her so much she decided she wanted to develop that confidence in front of an audience.

The first time she gave a speech at a meeting, perspiration appeared on her forehead and under her arms. She said “ah” for an entire minute.
“But I had many Toastmasters behind me with encouragement and support,” she says. She joined the group and began her climb to earning recognition in Toastmasters International. She completed more than 40 speeches and began to take leadership roles in the organization. “

“Every time I finished a speech, I felt better,” she says.

When she received the Distinguished Toastmasters award, “I felt like a kid tasting ice cream for the first time,” she says. “I use my Toastmaster skills to help with all volunteer community services.”

Her move to Brunswick County prompted her to begin the process of having a Toastmasters Club in the area. She submitted a press release to the Brunswick Beacon announcing a meeting for November 2010. Chuck Olson of Calabash saw the item, and his wife, Liz, told him, “You know what you have to do.”

Olson, founder and co-founder of more than 20 businesses across the United States, thought of the time years before when he was asked to speak at a Christmas banquet. He accepted before he realized he had no idea how to give a speech. He contacted a friend who connected him with Cincinnati Toastmasters.

Brunswick County Toastmasters Anniversary

“For the rest of my life I’ll be thankful to Toastmasters,” he says. He explains he became involved with many civic affairs when he lived in Raleigh, and it was due to being able to speak before groups.

He arrived at the Brunswick County meeting and learned it takes 20 people to receive a Toastmasters International charter. “We’ll have 22 members,” he told the assembled group.

They reached their goal and received their charter as the Brunswick County Toastmasters Club in 2011. Olson is a charter member and the charter’s founding president. Wong-Chong is also a charter member and a member of the executive leadership committee. The club earned the President’s Distinguished Club award in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021.

When COVID limited in-person meetings, the club began meeting by Zoom and now has members from Canada, Europe, India, Malaysia, the Bahamas, the Philippines and several states. It also has student ambassadors from Brunswick Community College as members. At its 12th anniversary Zoom meeting on June 6, Krystal Long from Cork, Ireland, received the Chuck Olson Merit Award for her contributions and achievements.

Toastmasters helps people develop leadership, public speaking and listening skills.

“The potential is limitless,” Wong-Chong says. “You learn in a supportive and positive environment that allows you to achieve your goals at your own pace.”
All backgrounds, cultures, ages and experiences are welcome.

“Toastmasters give you confidence and all members are there to help you achieve your goals,” Wong-Chong says. “Give it a try.”

Want to join?
Brunswick County Toastmasters Club
Meetings every Tuesday at 6 pm via Zoom
(910) 842-6566