South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

With Carrick Toastmasters, practice makes perfect


Wedding toasts, eulogies, and office meetings are relatively common activities, but for many people, public speaking can inspire more fear than unemployment, flying, or even death. For the 20 members of Carrick Toastmasters, practice is the key to overcoming that fear.

At its bi-weekly Saturday morning meetings, Carrick Toastmasters, and its youth-counterpart The Gavel Club, come together at the Carrick branch of the Carnegie Library to help local residents practice communication skills such as public speaking and time management in front of a live audience.

The meetings are simple. Each one is 90 minutes and specific roles are assigned for each meeting. Some members are assigned speech topics, while others are given evaluation roles such as ‘grammarian’ and ‘timekeeper.’ Afterwards, constructive feedback is offered to each member; however, it’s always done so in a positive manner.

Lisa Young, an Overbrook resident, joined a downtown Toastmasters International club before becoming a founding member of the Carrick club in February 2015. Working as an IT security risk analyst, Ms. Young said she joined the club to improve her public speaking and time management skills in the workplace.

“When I get up in front of people, I want to make sure I’m prepared,” Ms. Young said. “I want to know my subject, I want to be credible, and I think that’s one of the main things Toastmasters helped to develop.”

Her investment paid off. Since joining the club, Ms. Young has noticed a significant improvement in the way she’s able to lead meetings and communicate with coworkers. Her employer noticed too, and this past December, Ms. Young was honored with a Confident Leadership Award.

According to President Carolyn Krachkowski, the Carrick club has a more casual atmosphere and is one of the few in the district that offers Saturday morning meetings. She also said the club is not limited to Carrick residents, and many members come from all over the area.

“We’re a community club, so we have a more casual vibe,” Ms. Krachkowski said. “All clubs are friendly, but we have more time to have a more social aspect where some of them don’t.”

Carrick club members also can compete against other groups in District 13 which includes areas such as North Side, Monroeville, and Aspinwall. Winners from the district competition can then move on to a regional and national level as well.

Following the Toastmasters meeting is the Gavel Club, a group that functions the same as Toastmasters, but is geared toward kids in 6th to 12th grade. The group partners with Pittsburgh Public Schools to help kids improve public speaking as a way to prepare for life after school.

“Gavel Club members follow the same format as the adults and are eligible for the same educational awards,” Ms. Krachkowski said. “Once they turn 18, they can choose to join our club and their progress is recognized in the Toastmasters club.”

As a strategy to grow membership, both groups will be hosting an open house on Saturday, Feb. 20 beginning at 10:15 a.m. Anyone is welcome to attend and both groups will follow their normal meeting routines. Club leaders will also provide additional information on how the meetings operate.

“What’s really unique about this opportunity is we are combining our [open house] with the Gavel Club, so parents can bring their youth,” Ms. Krachkowski said.

The cost to join Carrick Toastmasters is $104 for the year, which includes all dues and materials.

Residents from any neighborhood who would like to learn more about the Carrick Toastmasters International club are encouraged to attend the open house next Saturday. More information can also be found by visiting


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