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Lessons from a leader

Toastmasters get tips on communication, leadership

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Gary Mull, former national president of Toastmasters International, speaks with Columbus-Whitehall Toastmasters club members during a club meeting at MCL Cafeteria on March 26. Mull offered tips to the group on ways to give an effective presentation.
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A past director of Toastmasters International was the guest speaker during a recent gathering of members of the Columbus-Whitehall Toastmasters Club.

Gary Mull, of Apollo Beach, Fla., addressed about 40 members and visitors to the local club March 26 at the MCL Cafeteria in Whitehall.

The meeting was "open house" to attract visitors and potential new members for the Whitehall club, which has 17 members.

Maria Scott, vice president of public relations for Columbus-Whitehall Toastmasters, contacted Mull in January to invite him to the meeting, she said.

"I considered asking a TV news anchor to speak at our open house but wanted someone who was familiar with our club and its purpose," Scott said. "I recognized his name."

Scott once lived in the Dayton area, she said.

"I called him (in Florida), and he was gracious to accept," she said.

Mull, 47, is a published author and professional speaker and consultant.

Working with the Optibility Performance Group, Mull leads workshops and seminars at Fortune 500 companies and other large employers, instructing employees and supervisors in improved communications and leadership development.

Mull was host for such a seminar in the Pittsburgh area last week and accepted the opportunity to speak to the Whitehall group.

Although the Whitehall club called Mull, he usually is the one to seek out Toastmasters clubs while on business trips, he said.

While living in Ohio, Mull was a district governor for Toastmasters clubs in 2004, overseeing clubs in parts of Ohio, including Cincinnati and Dayton, and parts of Kentucky and West Virginia. From 2006 to 2008, Mull was international director of Toastmasters International, an organization with about 13,500 clubs in 116 countries.

Founded in 1924 at a California YMCA, the Toastmasters International organization strives to help people sharpen and hone effective public-speaking and communication skills, typically achieved by having members address club members and make improvements based on members' critiques.

Mull joined Toastmasters while he was stationed at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. In February, Mull celebrated his 25th year as a member. His experience with Toastmasters led him into a parallel career as a motivational speaker and author.

He is working on a revision and second edition of his first book, Set Your Sails for Success.

"It draws on my love for sailing and uses a nautical theme to deliver another message," Mull said. "You can't change the direction of the wind or life events, but you can adjust your sails and change your attitude (when reacting) to life events."

Mull and his wife, Janet, in 2002 sailed from the waters of Florida up the Atlantic Coast and, via the St. Lawrence Seaway and Lake Erie, ended a 2-1/2-month sailing odyssey in Toledo.

Mull co-authored a second book, Speaking of Success.

Mull's address to Whitehall members, "Be an Exceptional Presenter," is based on a compact disc he has published.

Among the keys of being an exceptional, Mull said, are to "make a connection with the audience" and "get attention," which can be achieved in a multitude of ways, including storytelling and gesticulating.

Benjamin Okwumabua, president of the Columbus-Whitehall Toastmasters Club, said the club's goal is simple: "It's a great place for community leaders to learn to communicate and for communicators to learn to lead."

For more information about Mull, go online to optibility.com and garymull.com.

Columbus-Whitehall Toastmasters meet the second and fourth Tuesdays at Whitehall City Hall, 360 S. Yearling Road.

"We're happy to have visitors," Scott said.

For more information about the local club, go to whitehall-toastmasters.com or call 614-702-2206.

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