The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 11, 2013

Lewisburg Toastmaster talks about public speaking Monday evening

The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — Many fear speaking in public more than death.  Other people have seized the opportunity to conquer that fear and gone onto win world championships of speaking.

The recently-released documentary “Speak!” shows what can be done when we apply ourselves to a goal. The film will be screened at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 14 in Marlow Hall at RiverWoods, Lewisburg, with speaker Charlie Wilson.

Wilson, of State College, stars in “Speak!” and is a member of the Lewisburg Toastmasters club.

An emeritus retiree from the faculty of Penn State, Wilson is an active member of six Toastmasters International clubs, achieving Distinguished Toastmaster, serving as District 13 Governor twice. Active in community theater, Wilson has been in 78 productions over the past 14 years. He lives happily with his high school sweetheart, Caroline, who whom he reconnected online 50 years after their courtship in high school.

“Speak!” examines the hurdles everyday people face when it comes to speaking in public, chronicling the wins and losses of six individuals, on and away from the stage, as they compete in the 2008 Toastmasters International Speech Contest finals  for the coveted title of “World Champion of Public Speaking.”   

Set against what has been referred to as the Olympics of oratory, “Speak!” takes audiences on an intimate, emotional journey into the lives of an out-of-work father of six, an architect turned actor with incurable heart disease, a single mom living with Lupus, and Wilson – all battling for top honors.

The six competitors have no less than four minutes, 30 seconds and no more than seven minutes, 30 seconds to prove why they deserve the title over somebody else.  With their futures on the line, each takes the stage to speak.  As they begin, you quickly realize that what you are about to experience is not a lecture — it’s a one of a kind, passionate performance that they hope, on that day, will be the best performance of their life.  

For nearly two years, filmmakers Paul Galichia and Brian Weidling conducted interviews with hundreds of individuals to explore the physical symptoms and the emotional paralysis that public speaking can cause. On one extreme, speaking in public and social awkwardness hinders some from living productive lives. When presented with having to speak in public, even public figures experience painful and incoherent rambling.  

Then there is the crème of the crop — the people who have triumphed over their fear and now have an even bigger mission — to tell their stories.

“Speak!” features interviews with former Toastmaster and “Hardball” host Chris Matthews, past Toastmasters World Champions and communications professors. Ann Hastings, Distinguished Toastmaster and former Board member for Toastmasters International, discusses overcoming her extreme shyness, which at one time prevented her from walking into a restaurant alone. Audiences also hear from Caite Upton, Miss South Carolina Teen USA, whose nonsensical “out of body” answer during a pageant gained her international notoriety, as well as sportscaster Brian Collins, whose “boom goes the dynamite” on-air comment became the pop culture catch phrase for public speaking gaffes.

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, visit