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US Toastmasters ban NZ club’s candidates meeting

Oct 23rd, 2008 | By | Category: Features, News

AMERICAN Toastmasters bosses have outlawed a small Wellington public speaking club’s “meet the candidates” evening because they say it would be participating in politics.

The Karori Toastmasters club had lined up five Wellington Central candidates and had begun promoting the event – but Toastmasters International managers in the US intervened, forcing the meeting to be cancelled.

New Zealand leaders of Toastmasters contacted world headquarters in the US and after getting a decision, passed on to Karori’s club the ruling that the event would amount to participating in a political campaign.

The Karori club rejected this interpretation and tried to negotiate a compromise, without success.

The club was threatened with suspension from the international organisation, if it did not cancel the event.

Club president Graeme Peters (pictured above) says Toastmasters has lost touch with its grassroots.

“Instead of being run by and for members, it has been taken over by over-cautious employees and bureaucrats bent over rule books.”

Members are disappointed at “bullying and lack of support” from the Toastmasters governance, he says.

The idea had been to promote the meeting as an educational event, and to provide a clear statement distancing Toastmasters from any candidate’s views.

“Political candidates are effectively professional speakers, and our members were looking forward to seeing and analysing their speech structure, content, vocal variety, and body language,” says Mr Peters.

Another goal was to attract new people who could benefit from learning to speak well in front of others.

Ironically, the latest TMI publication has a feature story about the US presidential election being an excellent learning platform for those wanting to improve their public speaking performance.

Linda McGurk, a freelance writer and communications specialist from Indiana, analyses the public speaking styles of the two United States presidential candidates.

“The way Obama delivers a prepared speech is the reason communication experts are raving about him. ‘You get the feeling from Obama that he could read a recipe to you and you would feel inspired’,” says Ruth Sherman, one of McGurk’s sources for the article.

Mr Peters says it is sad that the organisation is sending such mixed messages: “There is a double standard here.

“If it was okay for the Toastmasters magazine, with its huge circulation, to run articles about election candidates, why was it not okay for the little Karori club to run a ‘meet the candidates’ meeting with the twin goals of education and membership raising?”

TOP PICTURE: Graeme Peters with the article about the presidential candidate’s communication styles, from the international magazine ‘Toastmaster’.  He is in front of the Beauchamp St Chapel in Karori where the local club meets every second Thursday evening.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student.
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