Three years ago, Santa Monica resident Daniel Rangel was terrified of public speaking. Now, he gives frequent speeches as a real estate agent and has performed two TEDx talks. The transformation, he said, can be attributed to Santa Monica’s Sand and Sea Toastmasters club.
The international Toastmasters organization was founded in 1905 and has over 352,000 memberships across 16,400 clubs. The clubs, each meeting once a week for about an hour, seek to improve participant’s leadership abilities and help people overcome their fears of public speaking. The Santa Monica Sand and Sea club meets on Mondays at 7 p.m.
“Starting off was extremely scary for me,” Rangel, who is now one of eight officers of the club, said. “But it gave me the gave me the opportunity to speak on a larger level, and I was eventually invited to speak at a TedX in Mexico and another one in Texas. Without a doubt, I don’t think I would have been able to do it if it wasn’t for Toastmasters.”
Rangel began attending the Sand and Sea club for its structure and its values.
“We have an agenda that’s broken down to the minute, which really makes it easy for anyone who comes in to not be lost and to be in tune with what’s going on,” Rangel said. “What that structure instills is to take public speaking very seriously, because we want to improve. It creates that culture where we respect the space and the environment.”
As an officer of the Sand and Sea club, Rangel’s responsibilities include mentoring new members, taking photographs of club events, running the social media and recruiting people to join.
Rangel said that members have various opportunities to develop their public speaking skills during meetings, which are attended by 30 people per week. Meetings begin with 20 minutes of ‘Table Topics,’ in which a selected ‘Table Topics master’ will pose a question to the audience, and one person will be called on to speak on the question for two minutes.
Rangel said, “It’s a great skill that you can transfer to sales, or just work in general, being able to speak off the cuff.”
In addition to practicing unprepared speaking, every practice also includes prepared speeches presented by three different members, all of whom are focusing on different skills, such as vocal variety or speaking to the point.
Meetings end with evaluations, during which members assess the prepared speeches and give feedback.
The Sand and Sea club has a fee of $45 every six months, in addition to a new members’ fee. Rangel said that the cost goes toward occasional food that is offered at practices, renting the Santa Monica First Presbyterian Church for meetings, and ribbons awarded to the best speaker of each practice.
Toastmasters also offers opportunities for international competition, and Rangel said that Sand and Sea provides financial aid for their qualifying participants to travel to the competitions.
“I think one of them was in India, they have them in so many places,” Rangel said. “We want to help people out to get them to wherever that country is so that they can compete and represent our club.”
Rangel said that he appreciates the values that Toastmasters Santa Monica upholds.
“It’s difficult to pick up public speaking, especially when you’re starting off, so I guess one of the requirements would be to come in with a supportive and optimistic attitude.”
Rangel said that Toastmasters was successful for him because of the audience that it provided him.
“If you want to practice basketball, you can show up at the court and shoot some free-throws, and if you want to practice swimming you can do that by yourself,” Rangel said. “But to build the skill of public speaking, you need people, and it’s not always easy to get an audience of find an opportunity to speak.”
“That’s one of the huge values of Toastmasters is that it always creates that environment for you to practice over and over once a week.”
Despite its nerve-wracking nature, Rangel said that public speaking and leadership are crucial skills to have and that their relevance goes beyond just speaking.
“It’s important for knowing how to get your message across, for a business perspective to sell more of your product, but many times it’s just to communicating ideas, perspective, ideologies,” he said. “If you want to change the world, you have to be able to tell the world what it is that you’re trying to do, and public speaking is one of those great mediums by which you can do that.”
In an era of social media and the internet, Rangel said that public speaking’s importance will only increase.
“You can transfer what you learn from public speaking to writing content for social media, or maybe you want to be a ‘Vlogger,’” he said. “I think it’s a great complement to the technology that’s evolving as far as communication is concerned.”
For more information about Toastmasters, visit www.toastmasters.org. For more information about the Sand and Sea club, visit www.sandandseaspeakers.com.