Tongue-tied types attempting to talk with talent might want to try Toastmasters, whose Hilliard branch will celebrate its 30th anniversary later this month.

Tongue-tied types attempting to talk with talent might want to try Toastmasters, whose Hilliard branch will celebrate its 30th anniversary later this month.

"Toastmasters is an international organization," said Peter Gehres, president of the Hilliard Toastmasters. "The two primary missions are communication, not just speaking, and leadership."

Members can receive awards for completing projects outlined in the nonprofit organization's manuals Competent Communication and Competent Leadership. But Toastmasters is best known for public speaking.

"It was formed out of a need to have a local place where people could both practice their speaking skills and overcome the fear of speaking," Gehres said. "Standing up and talking in front of people is the second most feared thing next to death."

The best way to overcome that fear is to simply get up and talk in front of people, Gehres said. At its hour-long meetings, Hilliard Toastmasters gives members a chance to present prepared talks about five to seven minutes long, as well as one to two minutes to speak extemporaneously on random topics. Other members then provide positive reinforcement and constructive criticism about the talks.

Gehres, an auctioneer and realtor who lives in Hilliard, said members come and go, but they don't have to live in Hilliard. They range from experienced salespeople striving to strengthen their spiel to "people that are most debilitated and frightened of speaking."

Randall Reeder is a founding member of the Hilliard Toastmasters and has been a member of the organization since 1970.

"Like many others, I was invited by a friend of mine," Reeder said. "We were both just out of graduate school, and that's how I got started.

"Once I got in Toastmasters, I saw the potential and just stayed with it. In my work over that time I've been required to give a few talks, just like many other people. It's a great help, whether you're teacher or in business -- it helps you speak on your feet and give better prepared thoughts."

Reeder, who lives in Hilliard, is an associate professor of agricultural engineering at Ohio State University and a Will Rogers impersonator.

"I give parts of my speeches at Toastmasters, just to work on some stories or individual parts of the speech," he said. "If I wanted to try a new story and didn't know how it was going to come across, I can try it out at Toastmasters. It's a great help, and other professional speakers say the same thing."

The 30-year Hilliard Toastmasters meeting on April 19 will be at a restaurant to be determined. Call (614) 306-1435 or visit hilliard.freetoasthost.us for details.

In the meantime, the organization's next meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday (April 5) at the Hilliard Senior Center, 3810 Veterans Memorial Drive.

"Guests and first time attendees are welcome at no charge at any of our meetings," Gehres said. "We are a pretty low pressure bunch -- high energy, but low pressure."