How learning to speak with confidence can help you
Carl Horn has brought the curtain down on 38 years of public speaking with some typically thought provoking words.
Every New Zealand citizen, he says, should be required to take a Toastmasters course, preferably after they leave high school.
For the uninitiated, Toastmasters is an international organisation made up of thousands of clubs with hundreds of thousands of members who practice the art and craft of making a speech.
For many it helps them tackle one of our most common fears - speaking in public - by providing a supportive, learning environment.
You won't find Carl's compulsory Toastmasters edict in any political manifesto, but he is nothing if not persuasive (that's one of the speech categories members practise at Toastmasters) .
"There is nothing more valuable than to be able to use words effectively and express yourself," he says.
"Our whole society is held together by language. Nothing happens without language and it's the inadequate use of language that is at the root of our problems."
Carl joined his first Toastmasters club in Canada in 1972. As well as being a dedicated and successful member, he has founded or helped to found 12 clubs since he moved to New Zealand in 1980, including four in one hectic week in Christchurch in 1993. All are still going today.
He has been a member of clubs in Christchurch and Nelson for the past 30 years, the last 15 with the Madhatters Club.
Carl says he didn't have a terrible fear of public speaking, a common motivation for new members, when he first joined Toastmasters. He heard a club president talking about the organisation on his car radio in his native Montreal, and thought it sounded like an interesting challenge.
At his first meeting he won the table topics session - where members are called up to give a short, improvised speech on a random topic. He still remembers the subject: "When the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing."
He hasn't looked back, rising to the heights of District Governor, the top New Zealand position in 1994-95. One of his speaking highlights was delivering a two-minute address - timed to the second - to 1500 people at the international convention in Toronto in 1993.
He has finished the Toastmasters communication manual - requiring 10 speeches - three times and at least 12 advanced manuals.
He even met his wife Sue at the Everest Toastmasters Club in Christchurch.
But now he is calling time, largely because of the lack of it. At 75 he is a member of 12 community organisations, including chairing SeniorNet. Something had to give.
Carl, naturally, has some parting words about why people should join a local Toastmasters club.
"It's wonderful, it's fun, it's a challenge, it's like bungee jumping," he says.
Its biggest benefit was that members took the skills and personal confidence into their "real" life, their family and community organisations, including politics. "It's very valuable to an individual's success and the cohesion of our society."
* Nelson has three Toastmasters clubs. Madhatters meets every Friday at 7am in the AA building on Halifax St; High Noon meets on Wednesday at midday at the NMIT meeting room; and the Nelson Club meets fortnightly on Monday at 7pm at Hearing House. For more details see www.toastmasters.org