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A master of public speaking

Updated Sat, September 19th 2009 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Brenda Kageni

There is little to compare with the inspiration that comes from listening to a well-prepared and organised speech made with flawless delivery. We nostalgically remember times when we sat speechless as a speaker wove spells around us with their words and ideas.

Notable orators like Martin Luther King Jr, Cicero, Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler were revered for the hypnotic power they had over their audiences through the spoken word.

Angela Rarieya has no problem talking. Her recent triumph at the Toastmasters International Speech Contest makes her the first Kenyan to win the coveted award.

Locally, PLO Lumumba and John Sibi Okumu come to mind for the magic of their superior oratory skills. And few can resist the eloquent finesse of Barack Obama’s speeches.

Social research states that the most common phobia in the world today is that fear of public speaking. Yet it is becoming increasingly important for people to learn how to hold their own in front of an expectant audience, and many of us yearn for the gift of gab.

Trained to stand before crowds

It is such dexterity in discourse that drew Angela Rarieya away when she attended a session of Smart Speak Toastmasters in 2006. Smart Speak is one of the four Toastmaster clubs in Kenya and part of the larger Toastmasters International — a movement devoted to making effective oral communication a worldwide reality.

At the time, she had no clue that three years later she would beat all other entrants to win the coveted International Taped Speech Contest for 2009, from Toastmasters International. So how did she weave her way to the top of the Toastmaster’s club?

Says she: "A friend invited me once, and it resonated with me instantly."

Then, she had to address the logistics of getting from Upper Hill where she worked to Parklands Club where the group met every first and third Tuesday of the month.

A month later, she would be introduced to the Kwanza Kenya Toastmasters, another of the clubs, whose members met in town. The other clubs are Sema Toastmasters Club, Nairobi Toastmasters Club and Smartspeak Toastmasters Club.

"We are brought together by our love for the spoken word. We want to communicate our ideas effectively," she says.

Members learn communication skills and public speaking by working on a series of self-paced speaking assignments. Also, by taking up roles during the meetings, members learn leadership skills. Assignments increase in complexity as one progresses.

Each member is allocated a mentor to guide them through and evaluated against their objectives after every presentation.

Winning speech

In June, Rarieya recorded her winning speech titled ‘Breathe Again’, which she submitted to Toastmasters International for the speech contest held every year in California.

Angela Rarieya (second right) with participants during the Toastmasters Annual Gala Dinner held at Nairobi’s Sarova Panafric on July 4, where she was the MC

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