William Michael Paul joined the Key Peninsula Toastmasters (KPT) with reluctance, after a student in his TCC acting class begged him for about a year. After all, what could an actor and teacher gain from such a group?

On his third time with KPT, it clicked, he says. He realized the beauty of learning to speak better as well as recognizing the group as a sort of family. They often have breakfasts together, and lifetime friendships are made.

Members write their own speeches, and are evaluated on their presentations. Impromptu talks on assigned topics are used at times to develop skills related to timekeeping, grammar and parliamentary procedure. The club uses a gentle process to encourage improvement.

Speaking contests begin at the local level, with eight speakers per level. Paul won the KP contest, then the Gig Harbor competition with about 100 people in the audience, proceeded to win at Bremerton to participate in the semi-finals at the convention in Federal Way. There he took second place, and is stand-by for the International contest at the convention in August in Las Vegas. 

The speeches are judged on content, organization, voice quality and gestures. The last winner from Washington was in 1984.

Paul’s winning speech, called powerful by some observers, was titled “Four-letter Words.” His favorite four-letter word is hero, he said, and he spoke about the heroes in his life.

One was his grandmother who raised him, a Lakota Sioux.

As a child, Paul stammered. His grandmother taught him to tap his foot in rhythm to help overcome the stammer.

He lost his daughter to cancer last year, and shared this comment from his speech: “I notice when we lose a parent we cry with our eyes, when we lose a spouse we cry with our heart, but when we lose a child our whole body cries and it never stops crying.” 

Frank Shirley, founder of the KP club, joined Toastmasters as a young businessman. He decided to start a group on the peninsula so he didn’t have to drive to Gig Harbor on dark rainy nights. Chartered membership requires at least 20 members, and the local group hasn’t reached that goal yet.

He says, “Toastmasters does not get rid of the butterflies, but gets them flying in formation.” 

The local KPT, organized in 2008, currently has 13 members. They meet at the Key Center library on Thursday mornings from 8 – 9 a.m. Newcomers are welcome.

Trade Center artifact escorted to Gig Harbor
Making the call on a national stage