WAXAHACHIE

Donald “Skip” Mondragon and his wife, Sherry, rocked the area competition for Toastmasters International earlier this month.

President of the Waxahachie-based Toastmasters International club, Skip, brought home the first-place trophy for his tall tale speech while Sherry earned second place in the humorous speech category. The Midlothian residents competed on Sept. 8 at the area-level competition at the Concord Church in Dallas.

“You have to be a big liar,” Skip began as he described the tale tales speech. “You are embellishing this story, making it so outrageous and putting twists to it. I went out there with the idea of have fun and let it rip.”

The three-year Toastmaster member presented the tall tale titled, "La Contessa," which is modeled after his mother. The majority of his speeches are taken from topics close to his life: wrestling, medicine, family and his experience with depression.

With enthusiasm, Skip described how he took his mother’s persona that is larger than life and put it into a small wrestler who trained with Bruce Lee and takes on an Amazon wrestler.

Much like the majority of written stories, Sherry’s humorous speech, “The Toddler Zone,” is based off real-life experiences and bizarre situations her children put her through years ago. This was also her first competition to attend in the year and a half of her membership.

Sherry explained the only way she survived the "terrible twos" was by recording everything wild and unexplainable her children had done. She spent two and a half years documenting the crazy events and even wrote an article that was published in American Baby magazine in 1991, which she then adapted into a humorous speech and realized it was better than the original.

“I was very happy to concede to number one because he was far funnier. He was fabulous," Sherry admitted. "I don’t mind losing to someone who was obviously good."

Sherry and Skip are natural storytellers and are both in the midst of publishing books. But to get on stage and present a story might not be as natural or smooth as they make it seem.

When Sherry joined Toastmasters a year and a half ago, it was as if she cried through her practice speeches. Her nerves shook her voice as her heart pounded out of her chest. Sherry still gets anxious but manages the butterflies. Even an experienced speaker like Skip has to work on certain aspects of his speeches.

“I feel empowered and excited," Skip explained. "My problem is containing that excitement and not speaking too quickly and not becoming over animated."

Competitions are hosted twice a year and consist of four levels before the international competition: club, area, division and district.

THE WAXAHACHIE CLUB

To prepare for competitions, members of Toastmasters meet every Tuesday at the Lyceum located upstairs of the N.P. Sims Library in Waxahachie from 6—7:30 p.m. Not all of the members participate in the contests, and it is not required.

“Toastmasters is a very safe environment," Sherry affirmed. "People aren’t going to nail you, and they are not merciless with the clicker. We begin with what you did well. In the middle, it’s what you can improve on and then there’s another affirmation after that. It’s not frightening to talk at toastmasters at all.”

Currently, the Waxahachie Toastmasters club has 10 members. The club size may be on the lower end but has a strong reputation.

“We are a rather storied club because we come away with a lot of awards in contests," Skip boasted. "When we go to contests, people know about us because we generally have a winner or placer when we compete.”

Meetings are well organized and a different member each week hosts the meetings as the “toastmaster.” This person moves the meeting along and also comes up with the word of the day to expand vocabulary. The toastmaster also has one minute to discuss the word or the theme of the day.

Then, roles are assigned for presentations and “table topics.” These roles include the grammarian counter, who listens for the proper way to speak the English language and catches all of the “umms” and other crutch words.

Another position is the timer as well as the listener who creates questions for the audience to answer to make sure they are listening.

At the end of the evening, the members will vote on the best table topic speaker. The winner is then awarded a ribbon. A table topic is an impromptu speech.

Sherry elaborated on how people fear public speaking, also known as Glossophobia.

“There are many occasions where we could bless other people by being able to speak, or we can improve our workspace, improve our success at work by being able to speak," she said. "It is an important skill that most of us avoid having to learn because it is so frightening.”

Toastmasters operates on a digital platform of a variety of pathways, which include dynamic leadership, effective coaching, innovative planning, leadership development, motivational strategies, persuasive influence, presentation mastery, strategic relationships, team collaboration and visionary communication.

Dues to join the Waxahachie Toastmasters International club is $65, and a one-time-fee of $20 and $45 every six months. If interested, an individual can email at skipmondragon@yahoo.com.