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Toastmasters group active on campus

By : Meghan Lynch

It’s two days before the big debate and you’re petrified to make that big speech you have been preparing for. If only you had known about Binghamton University’s Toastmasters Club you could have built the confidence needed to make a speech a winner.

For students and faculty members at Binghamton University whose skin crawls and hands get clammy when they think about standing up in front of an audience to make a speech, the Leaders and Learners Toastmasters Club can help make the experience easier to face.

Open to students, faculty, staff and members of the local community, the club’s goal is to promote communication and leadership skills through public speaking. The members of the club welcome newcomers and encourage anyone who feels they want to improve their public speaking skills to join them. Meetings are held at noon on Friday in UU-B08.

Each week members get together to give practice speeches and have them critiqued by one another. Included is a segment where they open up table topics and random members are selected to make a small speech on a specific topic.

During meetings each member has a different role. Timers ensure speeches are not too long, and a grammarian watches for excessive use of “uh’s” and “um’s,” which will deduct points from the speech.

A theme of the week is also chosen for each meeting along with a word of the day, which speakers can randomly insert into their speeches for extra points. Each week’s Toastmaster, whose specific job is to direct the meeting and make sure things go properly, chooses the theme.

The meetings are run efficiently and smoothly. At no time does a member look confused or befuddled. Each person knows his or her assigned role and does it.

The club works together to make meetings flow each week and it sure does pay off. Recently the Toastmasters Club reached what is known as “Distinguished Club Status,” by meeting goals set by the the international organization for membership and the progress of its members. The campus chapter’s members hope to continue to improve the organization.

The campus Toastmasters Club has attracted a number of students from the School of Management, who have joined to improve their speaking skills during interviews and class presentations. These students want to succeed and Toastmasters can give them the opportunity.

“I can see and learn how to speak better in front of the public and I enjoy it,” said new member, Sherman Guo, a SOM student.

Community members like Kathleen McKenna have also grown from joining the club. She said that, “over time friendships develop over Toastmasters,” and she wants to continue going to meetings so she can improve her speaking skills. Her goal is to learn how to give sermons without relying on written notes.

The benefits are endless and the club is not only just an educational, but a personal experience. Hilton Baxter, vice president of public relations for the organization, continues to benefit from the club.

“I really enjoy it and it helps keep my speaking skills fresh and it’s really a nice break for me,” said Baxter, who is a staff assistant for Binghamton’s Center for Learning and Teaching. To him, as well as many of the members, the club is a getaway and a place to perfect their public speaking, but also offers an opportunity talk about life and share experiences.

“We come initially for our public speaking skills, but always leave with something that has inspired us,” said McKeena.

This is not an ordinary club that meets once a week, but an inspirational group that works to better its members and the people around them. “Toastmasters is not about the superficial, but things that are meaningful and we get a lot of positive feedback,” said Mc Keena, who feels that when critiquing each others speeches every member has a, “gentle balance to come up with by being challenged and praised.”

Stu Fralick, a member of the group, explained, “We are here for fun and our own time, and don’t want to be pummeled to the ground.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08