O'Fallon Progress

Someone You Should Know: O’Fallon Toastmaster Swearingen headed for Division contest

O’Fallon Toastmaster Sandra Swearingen is off to the Division C Toastmasters Speech evaluation contest.

Swearingen and fellow Club member Bryan Vogt advanced to the Division contest by having their critiques of a “target” speaker judged the best in the evaluation contest. This took place Saturday, March 21, at the Caseyville Township Community Center in the Area contest.

The Division-level contests will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at the Fairview Heights Public Library, 10017 Bunkum Road, Fairview Heights. It lasts about two hours. The public is invited, no charge.

Swearingen looks forward to the competition.

“During a Toastmasters’ speech evaluation contest, a pattern speaker presents a prepared speech, then each of the evaluation contestants provide their evaluations of the speech, including recommendations for improvement,” she said.

All in all, Swearingen has a long history with Toastmasters, previously serving as club president, Area governor of five clubs and a Division governor of four areas. She participates in most District Toastmasters conferences in Illinois and Missouri and has attended five annual International Toastmasters Conventions in Phoenix, Chicago, Toronto, Orlando and Cincinnati.

This final competition will be at the Toastmasters International Convention. This year, it will be from Wednesday, Aug. 12, through Saturday, Aug. 15, in the United States at the Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

According to their website, here is how O’Fallon Toastmasters works:

• The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

• At Toastmasters, members learn by speaking to the group and working with each other in a supportive environment. A typical Toastmasters club is made up of 10 to 20+ people who meet once a week for 1-2 hours. Each meeting gives everyone an opportunity to practice.

• Conducting meetings. Meetings usually end with a short business session which helps members learn basic meeting procedures. Guests can stay or leave (their choice).

• Giving impromptu speeches. Members present one-to-two-minute impromptu speeches on assigned topics.

• Presenting prepared speeches. Two or more members present speeches based on projects from the Toastmasters International Communication Program manuals. These projects cover such topics as speech organization, voice, language, gestures, and persuasion.

• Offering constructive evaluation. Every project speaker is assigned an evaluator who points out speech strengths and offers suggestions for improvement.

Upon joining a Toastmasters club, each new member receives a variety of manuals and resources on speaking. Members also have access to other books as well as audio and video cassettes on speaking and leading. They also receive the award-winning “The Toastmaster,” a monthly magazine that offers the latest insights on speaking and leadership techniques.

In addition, through Toastmasters, members build leadership skills by organizing and conducting meetings and motivating others to help them. Club leadership roles and a leadership development program also offer opportunities to learn and practice. Just as Toastmasters members learn to speak simply by speaking, they learn leadership by leading.

Moreover, each meeting gives everyone an opportunity to practice conducting meetings, giving impromptu speeches, presenting prepared speeches, or offering constructive evaluation.

The O’Fallon Toastmasters Club 994 was chartered April 24, 1961, by a group of men who met in a barn. Today, the O’Fallon club is a leader in the Area, Division and the District organization of Toastmasters International. In addition, the O’Fallon club has had two members elected as an International Director of Toastmasters.

People can just show up at the meetings—no booking, no forms, no costs—and will be made very welcome. The Toastmasters meet from 7-9 p.m. (arrive at 6:50 p.m.) every Thursday at the Community Financial Center, 800 S. Lincoln, O’Fallon (corner of Lincoln and Highway 50).

O’Fallon Toastmasters is one of more than 14,350 clubs in 122 countries around the world (292,000 members). Each spring, approximately 50,000 members compete in club-level speech contests. Through six levels of competition, nine contestants will vie for the title of “World Champion of Public Speaking.” For more information, visit http://ofallon.toastmastersclubs.org/.

Outside of Toastmasters, Swearingen said she enjoys playing handbells with the O’Fallon United Methodist Church handbell choir.

“I was excited to play with the O’Fallon and other handbell choirs in ‘The Sound of Music’ Muny Outdoor Theater as well as at Powell Hall in St Louis and at the Scottish Rite in Belleville,” she said.

Professionally, Swearingen has spent 20 years as an Air Force officer, the last 12 of them at Scott Air Force Base in the computer career field. She currently works in the 375th Communications Squadron at Scott AFB.

“I have a brother who works as a data base architect in the Indianapolis area,” she said. “I enjoy visiting with my brother and his family and with my 101-year old dad, who is a retired Industrial Arts professor who still lives in the home he built in Southwestern Pennsylvania.”

Swearingen also has been a “big sister” to three girls under the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program of Southern Illinois.

“I loves the O’Fallon and St Louis areas, including riding the Metro Link to visit various St Louis attractions, such as Forest Park, as well as walking/jogging in the Rock Springs park nature preserve in O’Fallon,” she said. “I love traveling by train, and have enjoyed trips with the St. Louis American Association of Railroaders to the Colorado Rockies and across Canada.”

Swearingen has a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Math Education and a master’s degree in Computer Science.

The most recent books she’s read include “Computer Newtworks” by Andrew S. Tanenbaum and David J. Wetherall and “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller.