“Toastmasters” club on campus helps students improve speaking skills

David Spindler/Sun Star Reporter
Nov. 5, 2013

Officially starting in 2009, UAF Toast of Alaska, also known as the Toastmasters club gives students the opportunity to learn to be effective in their communication and leadership through practical experience. Toastmasters help students, commonly graduate students, to overcome nervousness people might experience when speaking in front of an audience.

The club meets in Murie Building, room 103 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., every Tuesday.

“My committee members strongly encouraged me to join Toastmasters since I have a fear of public speaking in my presentations due to nervousness,” said Emily Dickson, a Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences graduate student. “I’ve been a member since 2009, and I’m also the Vice President Membership who gets involved with meeting new members and encouraging them to join.”

The club works by encouraging members to actively participating in speaking activities. One such activity is “table topics.” Table topics is an activity that helps people speak efficiently by incorporating improv. During the activity, a person begins a sentence and another person has to begin the sentence or phrase in under minute.

The club also has many formal club positions. The Wordmast, is a person who presents the “word of the day.” Members try to incorporate the word into their speeches, which is meant to help improve and expand their vocabularies. At the end of each meeting, the Wordmaster reports how much the word was used and by whom.

Another member of the club is the humorist, who presents a joke to the audience. The joke can be anything from a one-liner to a short story. Gerald Maschmann, who has been a member of Toastmasters since it began, was last week’s humorist. “I prepared my jokes ahead of time since I signed up online to be the Humorist, and when I get here and see new faces I see already this is really going to mix things up,” Maschmann said.

Midway through the meeting, there is always a speech given by a participating member. For last week’s meeting, Wildlife Biology graduate student Lindsay VanSomeren did a speech on the importance of learning foreign languages and why college students should learn them. That was VanSomeren’s third speech this semester.

“I really like going up and being able to do these speeches, and in the past, I’ve been told I’m a good public speaker,” VanSomeren said. “I’m hoping to become a research scientist one day and I know that getting up here and presenting information on a interesting topic can be lots of fun and engaging.”

Near the end of every meeting, there is someone evaluating the speech of the day, word of the day, the humorist’s jokes, and the table topic of interest. Wildlife Biology graduate student Garrett Savory, the secretary and treasurer of Toastmasters, offered to be the evaluator. “Evaluating peoples speeches is really tough because you really have to take note on every little detail and mistake so as to let the speaker know what he or she can improve on,” Savory said.

A typical Toastmasters club meeting can be made up of 10 to 20 members at a time. Usually the evaluator will conclude the meeting with what went well and what didn’t by quizzing the audience on how well they learned everything that was given during the presentation.

“You’re working out your speaking ability. The more often you come, the better off you’ll be. If you don’t come or go often, you will see little benefit in what Toastmasters has to offer you,” Savory said.

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