Mid-Missourians get chance to improve communication skills

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COLUMBIA – A nonprofit organization is helping members better themselves by improving their communication skills for free.

Tuesday night at 5:45 p.m., the Columbia Toastmasters Club is meeting at the St. Luke United Methodist Church.

Toastmasters is an international nonprofit organization that helps people from multiple diverse backgrounds become better communicators and leaders.

According to a spokesperson, these local classes are free for anyone to attend.

Kenny Freeman, a member for more than 30 years, believes strong communication skills is the most important skill to have.

"Usually when you look at the foundation on what went wrong, you're going to find it was communications, " he said. "It was a break down in communications because communication actually can save lives. Because knowing how de-escalate a bad situation is probably the most life-saving communication skill anyone can have."

The educational program helps its members build skills in areas such as interview preparation, online meeting management, leadership development, project management and conflict resolution.

Meetings have a business session followed by an education session, where members give speeches either prepared, or impromptu. Lastly, the evaluation session where members evaluate strengths and weaknesses and recommend suggestions for improvement in a positive manner.

"Toastmasters makes learning fun, it's actually a laboratory, and it’s a laboratory for the brain," Freeman said. "The brain is just like any other muscle, the more you exercise it and use different portions of the brain the better you're going to get. The more you practice communication skills the better you get at communication skills."

The organization is open to all adults and children. Freeman supports getting kids involved in the program.

“When we get with youth at the right age, and really give them the skills to present themselves in a positive manner, were able to save lives” he said. "When were able to help kids visualize and see where the want to go, more than likely they're going to get there."

The group also works with inmates. Freeman said more than 90 percent of inmates that participate in a prison section never go back to prison.

"They develop greater self-esteem, it makes it easier for them to re-culture themselves to society and it helps them get jobs quicker and helps them keep those jobs," Freeman said. 

There is another Toastmaster group that meets Thursdays at noon at the Missouri United Methodist Church.