The Ottumwa Courier

November 5, 2013

Ottumwa Toastmasters celebrating 65 years

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Not many organizations can say they have been in existence for 65 years.

To celebrate not crumbling to the hands of Father Time, Ottumwa Toastmasters #663 is having an open house Monday at the Indian Hills Community College Advanced Technology Center. The open house begins at 7 p.m. and will last until about 8:30 p.m.

The organization prides itself on showing guests how to become better communicators and leaders, which can help strengthen self-confidence. Members help to provide a very supportive learning environment for those who are new to speaking in front of large groups. According to Ben Trachsel, vice president of education for the Ottumwa Toastmasters, they do everything they can to help guests succeed.

“We try to create a situation at the open houses where different people get to speak about something they know about,” Trachsel said.

Members will be going through impromptu sessions, showing new guests how to better use communication skills while in front of a group in an improvisational setting. They will also be going over table topics with guests who want to get involved.

“It shouldn’t be boring at all for anyone,” Trachsel said.

Each person will write down something they have done that they are proud of, like running a marathon or receiving an award, and the group will ask questions and guess whose topic is whose. Talking about topics that each guest is proud of is a way to help them get more comfortable speaking, and it eases them into being in front of the group by giving them a topic they already know a lot about. That way, once the group identifies whose topic is whose, the guests will be more than capable of going more in depth about their topic.

“By that time, they are comfortable talking about it already, and they can be more successful,” Trachsel said.

The open house will also feature a reflection speech by longtime toastmaster Kevin Kelley. According to Trachsel, the speech will be focused around the history of the club and will be “hilarious.”

Trachsel says the club is the fourth or fifth oldest Toastmasters organization in the state, which falls under District 19. There are approximately 100 clubs in District 19, so Ottumwa’s being the fourth or fifth oldest is quite a feat.

Ottumwa Toastmasters has been able to remain an organization for so long because of the supportive learning environment that the members create. They try to make new guests as comfortable as possible with speaking and foster learning every step of the way. They also have a great deal of fun, which doesn’t hurt.

“If you are comfortable, your audience is comfortable,” Trachsel said. “It takes practice, but we have fun. The reason I’m involved is to have fun.”

Everyone is invited to help the Ottumwa Toastmasters celebrate its 65th anniversary. Not only will you meet new and interesting people, but you will learn how to be a better communicator by being a better listener.

“The Toastmasters really teaches listening, which is at least 60 percent of communicating,” Trachsel said. “Listening carefully really helps you communicate with people.”

If learning and having fun isn’t enough to spark interest, Trachsel also mentioned that Iowa State Rep. Mary Gaskill has said she plans to be in attendance.

More information about the open house and the club can be found by going to

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh