|Dr. Hill Krishnan spoke about the need to keep trying at the Toastmasters semi-finals.|
James Traywick is wearing a dark gray suit with a bright yellow pocket square, a lemon yellow shirt, a bow tie with a sliced lemon motif and, we will learn later, is carrying an actual lemon in his jacket pocket.
The retired Chicago public school teacher, 69, belongs to seven local Toastmasters clubs, and was among 30,000 members around the globe who entered this year’s speech-making competition. He’s tried several times, but this year was the first year he was among 106 who made it into the semi-finals, held last Friday at McCormick Place, site of Toastmasters International’s 87th annual convention.
“It’s such a safe environment to make mistakes in,” said Traywick, of the organization. “To improve your speaking ability. That was the emphasis for me joining, and it has been a really great experience.
Founded in California in 1924, Toastmasters has 357,000 members in 143 countries. About 1,700 were at the convention, attending networking lunches and talks with titles like, “How to Get What You Want: Influencing Others Into Action.” The halls were crowded with men in three-piece suits and white Arabic thobes, women in colorful dresses and flowing chadors, entire districts clad in matching outfits: maroon golf shirts on a group from Northern California, goldenrod dashikis on 20 Nigerians, including Ena Agbahovbe.
“This is my first time wearing something like this,” said the petroleum engineer from Lagos. “In our culture, when we’re having a big ceremony, we like to dress similarly, to show we’re like a family.”
He joined Toastmasters two years ago.
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