MIDCITY — The fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias. For an actor, that fear could kill a career before it has a chance to get off the ground.
To help some teenage actors master the art of public speaking, Toastmasters Club 21, the Santa Monica branch of an international public speaking and leadership organization, is sponsoring a Youth Leadership Program organized by Children In Film in association with The Actors Fund’s Looking Ahead Program.
“We want to help teens become better public speakers because it’s just a good life skill to have,” said Heather Broeker, the director of marketing for Children In Film, a website that supports the positive employment of children in the entertainment industry.
Starting July 13, 15 to 20 members ages 13 to 18 of Children In Film and the Looking Ahead Program, which also helps children employed in the entertainment industry, will attend four two-hour workshops to develop public presentations about a common theme the group will decide on at the meetings. They will then give a final presentations during a banquet to their parents and industry professionals on or around Aug. 10.
Though adults from Children In Film and Toastmasters, like Broeker, will be in attendance to supervise the meetings, the teenagers will lead everything themselves. This will allow them to learn to evaluate others’ speeches and construct their own order of business, among other skills, Broeker said.
“It’s a shortened version of what the main Toastmasters do,” she said.
Toastmasters Club 21 has been in Santa Monica since 1934. The international organization helps adults looking to improve their public speaking skills or to overcome their fear of public speaking through weekly meetings.
The club decided to sponsor the youth program after it was presented to them by Broeker, a current Club 21 member, and Children In Film President Toni Casala, a former Club 21 member, as it fit with its initiative to help young people become better leaders and to be involved in the community, said Peter Orlowski, Club 21’s vice president of communications. Since he joined Club 21 nine months ago, Orlowski said it has hosted two or three other community events in the same style of the summer Youth Leadership Program.
Teenagers involved said they are excited to get the opportunity to hone their leadership and public speaking skills in the free program, both to advance their careers and to help with life outside of acting.
“I’m hoping to get my speech skills upgraded because I’m an actor, so speech is really important. I kind of have a hard time pronouncing words and stuttering, so this will really help me,” said Darnell Cates, a 15-year-old member of Children In Film. “When I’m doing school presentations, [public speaking skills] would really help me.”