Toastmasters helps boost careers

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20 Under 40: JenniferDessoye

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Dr. Jennifer Dessoye is assistant professor of occupational therapy at Misericordia University and owner of Bright Beginnings Early Learning Academy (BBELA). Discontent with the early education curriculum and understanding of human development and neurolo (read more)

20 Under 40: Amy Hlavaty Belcher

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Amy Hlavaty Belcher, 39, owner and artistic director of Abrabesque Academy of Dancing, believes that for those who have been given much, much is expected. “I just try hard to do my best,” she said. I have been blessed with many opportunities and many gift (read more)

20 Under 40: Christopher Hetro

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Chris Hetro, 33, works hard and plays hard. “A strong work ethic is important, but finding balance outside of work is important because life is too short and you need to enjoy it,” he explained. As an electrical engineer and project manager at Borton-Laws (read more)

20 Under 40: C. David Pedri

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For attorney C. David Pedri, 37, it’s all about a combination of qualities that contribute to success. “My philosophy is simple: be open and honest, treat people the way you would want to be treated, with respect, and work hard to attain your dreams. The (read more)

20 Under 40: Ed Frable

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Ed Frable, 28, believes “if I work hard and stick to my word, good things will happen. My crew will not be deterred. We will re-evaluate our game plan and not give up until the job is complete,” explained Frable, the owner/operator of Ed Frable Constructi (read more)

20 Under 40: William H. Bender II

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William H. Bender II, CFP, CIMA, CRPC, loves what he does. “I’m lucky. I come to work every day excited to help the people and institutions we work with,” explained Bender, 34, first vice president at Bender Wealth Management Group, Merrill Lynch. The fam (read more)

20 Under 40: Angelo Venditti

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Angelo Venditti, 38, heard a call to the helping professions early on. Geisinger Northeast’s chief nursing officer answer was to volunteer for his local fire company. After high school, he became a paramedic, then enrolled in nursing school. Three years a (read more)

20 Under 40: Donald Mammano

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At 20, Donald Mammano began his own company, while attending the University of Scranton. Mammano, now 33, and president of DFM Properties, recalls, as a youngster, holding a flashlight while his father fixed the kitchen sink. “From that point on I was fas (read more)

20 Under 40: William J. Fennie III

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William J. Fennie III, 27, is always knocking on the proverbial door, because he knows one day, one will open. As an investment specialist with Integrated Capital Management (iCM) he cannot take “no” for an answer. “I make cold calls every day to invite f (read more)

20 Under 40: Marcus Magyar

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As an advisor at CAPTRUST Financial Advisors, Marcus N. Magyar, CFP, 30, provides comprehensive wealth management and investment portfolio services to business owners, executives, families and high-net worth individuals. His multi-disciplinary team of pro (read more)

20 Under 40: Heather Davis

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Heather M. Davis, 33, director of marketing and communication, is responsible for creating, overseeing and implementing a strategic marketing and comprehensive communications plan for The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC). She is also responsible for pr (read more)

20 Under 40: Alexandria Duffney

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Alexandria Duffney, 30, is competitive by nature and loves a good challenge. These qualities have led her to her position as associate director of graduate admission at Wilkes University. Here she works with prospective students interested in enrolling in (read more)

20 Under 40: John Culkin

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John Culkin’s tenets inform: “Less haste equal more speed; the same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg, it is all about what you are made of, not the circumstances surrounding you; and don’t ask someone to walk a mile in your shoes, bef (read more)

20 Under 40: Conor O'Brien

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“What could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn’t lived it,” mused Conor O’Brien.” As co-founder and executive director of the Scranton Fringe Festival, O’Brien, 25, is responsible for leading the development of the overal (read more)

20 Under 40: Jessica Siegfried

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Jessica Siegfried, 38, is senior designer with BlackOut Design Inc., where she is responsible for all creative design at the full-service agency, from traditional branding and print to collateral and front end web design. “I’ve always had an interest in t (read more)

20 Under 40: David Johns

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David Johns’ career path has been shaped by his diverse experiences. As director of structural engineering at Greenman-Pedersen Inc., Moosic, Johns, 39, ensures that his engineering and consultant teams provide clients with their best effort. “We complete (read more)

20 Under 40: Robyn Jones

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Robyn Jones, 38, president of ReferLocal LLC, has learned just as many lessons from her business successes as she’s had from her failures — and she believes it’s important to share that knowledge with her employees. After graduating from American Universi (read more)

20 Under 40: Nisha Arora

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Nisha Arora, 36, tries to be the best version of herself every day. As general counsel for ERA One Source Realty Inc., she realized she cannot control other’s behavior so “I try to focus on myself and how I can be better,” she explained. Arora’s responsib (read more)

20 Under 40: Justin Sandy

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Starting at a young age in Hazleton, Justin C. Sandy, 33, found a passion for running. He became a member then a coach for Misericordia University’s cross country and track and field programs. “It was at Misericordia that I also garnered the profound sati (read more)

20 Under 40: Dr. Ariane Conaboy

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As a doctor of internal medicine at Physicians Health Alliance, Dr. Ariane M. Conaboy, 34, realizes the importance of human life and how fragile it can be at times. Conaboy graduated from Scranton Prep and the University of Scranton with a double major in (read more)

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Value of inherited Caddy is dubious

Q: I am now the owner of a 1978 Cadillac Seville Grand Opera Coupe. This was my grandmother’s car and one of a few hundred made of this model. It is not running, but I believe that is due to it sitting. It is all original and has very few miles. What is t (read more)

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By John L. Moore


When speaking before groups, Sheila Donnelly once used lots of unnecessary words and phrases such as “you know” and “um” and “ah.”

“I used filler words,” Donnelly said. Then she joined the Electric City Toastmasters Club, a Scranton organization that is part of Toastmasters International. As a result of her Toastmasters training, “I stopped saying ‘ah’ and ‘um,’ ” she said, quickly adding, “Not to say I’ve quit completely.”

Founded in 1924, Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization based in California. It has more than 345,000 members and 15,900 clubs in 142 countries. Its mission: to “empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.”

The Toastmasters program takes a learn-by-doing approach, guiding members through the basics of public speaking, while providing them with continual coaching and feedback as well as ample opportunities to get up in front of people and talk, with or without notes.

Business people can boost their careers by becoming both skilled and confident about speaking in public, which many people dread.

Every meeting has a portion dedicated to extemporaneous speaking called Table Topics. One club member has the task of coming up with an assortment of topics. Club members don’t know what their topic will be before getting up to give a short speech about it.

This exercise teaches people to think on their feet. Such experience can come in handy in business “when you’re sitting at a meeting, and the boss asks what you think about something,” said Bruce Spencer, president of Blue Diamonds Toastmasters Club, which meets in Wilkes-Barre.

“Typically you stutter and think about what your answer is going to be,” but someone experienced in Table Topics has learned to think while speaking and can respond confidently, said Spencer, who worked in sales and sales training, primarily in Wilkes-Barre, prior to retiring.

Some companies place so much value on Toastmasters training that they sponsor corporate clubs that operate exclusively for their own employees. One such club is Talk of the Rock Toastmasters, where membership is restricted to employees of Prudential Retirement in Moosic. Consequently the club meets in Prudential’s Training Room C at 30 Scranton Office Park.

“The program format helps to improve communication skills by providing an environment for members to continually practice and improve skills,” said Diane Fritz, president of Talk of the Rock Toastmasters. “The environment is friendly, supportive and enables me to gain positive feedback to help me improve my communication skills.”

A Prudential employee for 25 years, Fritz works in communications. “I started the Talk of the Rock club in 2005 with the support of our management team to provide employees with a means to improve their communication skills,” she said.

The Toastmasters program “provides a

leadership and speech project plan for skill development through (a) series of developmental projects,” Fritz said. “The process enables individuals to improve speaking habits, speech development and speech delivery.”

Fritz added, “It’s remarkable to witness a member improve from their very first speech. I’ve seen members eliminate the use of ‘double clutch’ phrases and ‘ums and ahs’ that take away from their message. Their confidence increases with every speech and every time someone steps in front of the group.”

In turn, Donnelly gave the example of a woman who joined the Electric City Toastmasters.

“One member, a mother of three, was afraid of everything,” Donnelly said. When it was her turn to address the club, “she was petrified.” But she overcame her fear of public speaking by taking part in Table Topics, by giving prepared speeches and by participating in other aspects of the Toastmasters program.

“Now she has joined an essential oils business, and she is one of their top earners,” Donnelly said. “Her whole life has changed.”

Since retiring, Bruce Spencer has become active in a number of civic organizations, one of which provides therapy for veterans. Because of his ability as a speaker, the organization has tapped him as its spokesman.

“I’m the fellow who’s going out to Rotary and other organizations to raise awareness,” Spencer said. “I wouldn’t be doing that without my Toastmasters experience.”

People for whom English is a second language often join a Toastmasters club to improve their command of English. The Electric City club, for instance, has members from Saudi Arabia, India and China. “They have language barriers,” Donnelly said. “They have come to Toastmasters to improve.”

People from other countries often don’t understand figures of speech used every day by native-born speakers. But within the setting of a Toastmasters club, the new-comers learn about American-style English, and, in turn, “we learn so much from them,” Donnelly said.

At Talk of the Rock, Fritz described the dues as “reasonable,” and Donnelly reported that members of the Electric City club pay $50 in dues twice a year, with part of the money going to the international organization.

The payments appear to pay dividends of sorts.

Before joining Toastmasters, “I had a fear of speaking in public,” Fritz said. “I found this was holding me back in my career. Toastmasters provided me the opportunities I needed to gain that confidence. Now, I am truly excited about any opportunity to speak in front of a group.”

Toastmasters International has five clubs in Northeast Pennsylvania:

• Electric City Toastmasters in Scranton;

• Talk of the Rock Toastmasters, Moosic;

• Blue Diamonds Toastmasters, Wilkes-Barre;

• Mondelez International Toastmasters, Wilkes-Barre; and

• Pocono Toastmasters, Stroudsburg.


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