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Cy-Fair group helps make public speaking a passion for its members

July 10, 2018

For some, speaking in front of large groups of people is a sweat-inducing task. For others, like northwest Houston resident Ramona Smith, it’s a passion: one that she hopes to take the crown for on an international stage.

Smith has been part of Toastmasters International for eight years.

The organization has been aiming to help individuals become better communicators and leaders through giving speeches and receiving feedback in a small group setting for 80 years and has over 350,000 members worldwide.

“When you’re passionate, you ramble. Toastmasters has taught me how to channel all these words and ideas I have and narrow it down to exactly what I want to say while still entertaining at the same time,” Smith said.

Smith is part of the Cy-Fair Super Speakers club, one of about 190 clubs in this area’s Toastmaster district.

She beat out more than 80 local contestants and won the district-level speech competition with her speech “Not Good Enough,” which she said was about how it is important to know your own value and not to use other peoples’ rulers to measure your success.

Her speech was judged on a set of criteria and bumped her to the semifinal round, during which she’ll compete against 105 other district winners from around the world.

Those contestants will then be narrowed down to 10 speakers, who will compete in the World Championship of Public Speaking.

Both the semifinal and final rounds are to take place next month at the organization’s International Convention in Chicago.

Being able to move on to the semifinal round is moment of redemption for Smith. She had competed in the 2015 district competition, but didn’t score high enough to move forward then.

“I was crushed for a long time. I was so confident and knew I was going to win, but I lost,” Smith said.

Three years later, she’s back — excited to be able to compete in the semifinal round and hopeful to make it to the finals. There hasn’t been a female champion in 10 years.

“I want to be doing this for the rest of my life. Motivational and inspirational speaking is my passion,” Smith said, who is also a teacher in Aldine ISD.

Marshall Carter is the public relations manager for this area’s Toastmasters district. Carter said that though the level of competition will be challenging, Smith has a good shot at appealing to the judges.

“Her speech was entertaining, and it intersected with everyone because of the subject matter. Everybody, at some point in time, felt like they weren’t good enough,” Carter said.

He said there are several reasons why people join the clubs, one being that individuals want to gain confidence. Carter said people also join to gain leadership experience or network with others.

“Because the clubs that we have cross different industries, there’s a whole host of different occupations that make us of Toastmasters,” Carter said.

He added that individuals may join to get a social experience from the club.

More than 10 Toastmaster clubs meet in the northwest Houston region.

jane.stueckemann@chron.com

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