improve your communication skills

Improve your Leadership and Communication Skills with Toastmasters

You’ve probably heard about Toastmasters, but do you know what it is?

Find out from John Rodke and Laurelee Norris in this episode of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur.

Lauralee Norris and John Rodke are both leaders within District Seven of Toastmasters International, which serves Oregon, Southern Washington State and Northern California. Every week, Toastmasters helps more than a quarter of a million men and women build their confidence to speak and to lead others.

“We try to help people better their communication skills and their leadership skills,” said John, the chapter’s director.

The leadership track helps teach members how to lead groups, facilitate meetings and work with volunteers, among other things. The communication track is where members try to find their story and the ability to tell it.

“They go hand-in-hand. A good leader has to be able to communicate their messages, and a person who is communicating a good message is going to be leading people toward something,” said John.

He’s been a member of Toastmasters for about nine years. His dad has participated for 35 years and encouraged him to join.

“I finally jumped in after graduating college and, in trying to network, I realized quickly that there’s a bunch of people who all want you to improve,” John said.

Lauralee joined because she was part of an online public speaking class that required her to find an audience to speak to. Her father had just joined Toastmasters and encouraged her to come along. Soon, she was doing public relations for the district.

“I actually found out that I love public relations,” Lauralee said. “That’s what I want to do for my career.”

Initially, she wanted to be a dietician.

Lauralee said members of all public speaking skill levels are part of the organization, from pros to those who shake in front of an audience.

Helping members thrive

John used to coach the University of Oregon’s Toastmasters club and said for many members, English wasn’t their first language. Those members are often terrified, but he said within a few months of attending, they are thriving.

“You have people from 18 to 100 years old in these clubs, and you have so much with collective wisdom between them,” John said. “Those all combine to create an amazing fostering environment for people to grow and thrive.”

Other groups offer the same type of environment, but John and Lauralee say there are some things that set Toastmasters apart.

First, you go at your own pace, said John. Anyone can improve if they work consistently. By going once a week or every other week, they’re getting continual feedback, John said. They begin to improve immediately and continue to improve as they participate.

“With Toastmasters, you don’t just learn by yourself doing it or by listening to someone tell you what’s best,” said Lauralee. “You learn from the experience of others as well.”

You can learn more from Lauralee and John by listening to the full episode of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur above and don’t forget to subscribe on  Apple Podcasts Stitcher SpotifyGoogle Play Castbox TuneIn RSS.

Do you think Toastmasters may be good for you? You’re probably right. Learn more about District 7 Toastmasters at

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