Brian Woolf, DTM, witnessed scores of Toastmasters “find their voice” and develop leadership skills. His experiences recently culminated in two related events: a labor of love and an act of generosity.
Woolf joined the Waitemata Club in Auckland, New Zealand shortly after it chartered in Nov 1965. He remained a member until 1974 when he came to business school in the United States. After a two-year hiatus, Woolf joined a club in Indianapolis. Since then he has been active clubs in IN, OH, TN, NC, and SC. He was also an active club member in Ireland for a few years when consulting there. On occasion, extensive international work and travel precluded active membership.
Over the years, he garnered six district speech titles. In 2003, he was one the nine finalists in the International Speech Contest. Additionally, the Harvard MBA authored four books on marketing. His fifth title, The Speaker’s Toolbox: 47 Tools to Build Better Speeches, published in 2016, took a full year in the making. In the process, he viewed 300 contest videos, analyzing patterns, styles, and techniques.
“I wrote this book as I one I wished I had early in my speaking career,” explained Woolf. “I endeavored to include all that is not covered in the Toastmasters manuals. This the second half of a speaker’s education: things we can learn from world champions and those who compete for the title.”
Woolf explained the purpose of this book is to help speakers speak better. After explaining why audiences’ minds wander, he provides 47 tools used by speakers to attract and maintain interest and attention. Each tool is briefly described, followed by many examples from speeches. The book ends with 11 speeches that illustrate the various tools in use.
It was shortly after the publication date when Woolf encountered officials from Allendale Correctional Institution, home of the first Toastmasters club in a South Carolina correctional facility. They spoke at the D-58 fall conference. “I found their story quite moving,” Woolf recalled. It triggered a memory of a visit to a district conference Oregon. “The Toastmaster who headed that district’s prison program was caring, compelling, and convincing. She spoke of the benefits the prison members had received. Hearing her, and hearing about the program, left a permanent impression on me.”
“My experience with Toastmasters is it gives one hope,” said Woolf. “Preparing a speech occupies a mind while learning a new skill. All roles in a club meeting teach communication skills. That is why I decided Toastmasters clubs in correctional facilities provide a fabulous way to give inmates skills they need when then come out. And they get excitement, hope, critical thinking, education–and some fun—while members of the club.”
Yvonne Wilkins-Smith, Associate Warden at Ridgeland Correctional Institution, witnessed the excitement in their club, which is the second in a SC correctional facility. Chartered in September 30, 2016 the club had rapid results. She said already sees “tremendous effects in self-esteem and confidence.” Other inmates see it too and are requesting permission to visit the club. “The enthusiasm is contagious,” according to the associate warden.
While attending TLI recently, Woolf noted a flyer soliciting donations to support clubs at correctional facilities. That prompted an idea. For any $20.00 donation to the District-58 correctional facilities, the donor received a copy of The Speaker’s Toolbox: 47 Tools to Build Better Speeches. The price of the book is $20. The offer to attendees proved so successful, he promised to repeat the offer at the D-58 spring conference in April.
His largesse is vital. Some inmate members are unable to pay their membership dues. According to Toastmasters International, founder Ralph C. Smedley “saw a need for the men in the community to learn how to speak, conduct meetings, plan programs and work on committees, and he wanted to help them.” Brian Woolf, DTM, took his labor of love—the book he spent a year developing—and used it to continue Smedley’s goals—and to fund hope.