Campus Toastmasters give insight on how to speak with confidence
Students, faculty, staff and community partners gather to network, practice public speaking, give advice, and promote career readiness and advancement.
As a future business analyst, College of Business graduate student Priyank Mathur said he must communicate discoveries gleaned from data clearly and effectively to future clients and employers.
“You may be the best in your field,” he said. “But if you cannot communicate your findings, appear to lack confidence or use filler words like uh and um, people might not take you seriously.”
So before he gets into a boardroom, he decided to put himself on center stage in a classroom. Mathur is a member of The Toast of Dearborn - Career Best, the campus chapter of Toastmasters International, an organization known for promoting communication and public speaking skills.
“In a business situation, not speaking effectively might leave a bad impression. But in Toastmasters, if I don’t come across well, I get support and advice on how to be better,” Mathur said. “We are all learning and I know that whatever happens in the room, stays in the room.”
Previously, the university’s Toastmasters chapter was mainly focused on faculty and staff. But a repurposing of the group came in 2017 when Career Services looked at the level of impact that a campus chapter of Toastmasters could have.
Now focused on networking opportunities — where speaking well is a definite plus — the club, under the direction of Career Services, has broadened to students, alumni, community members and corporate partners.
“The members are gaining leadership skills by having the opportunity to run the meeting as the toastmaster. They are building relationships with people on campus and in the community. And they are learning how to present themselves in the best way possible,” said Assistant Director of Career Education and Career Readiness Britta Roan.
The group is attending a local competition on Feb. 26 where Ford Motor Co. clubs will also be competing. This affords students the opportunity to connect and compete with corporate-based chapters.
“The experience gained in Toastmasters is a nice transition for students to employee,” said Roan (’82 B.A.), who was a member of the university’s Toastmasters as a staff member prior to the reimagining.
Regular Toastmasters meetings are the second and fourth Thursday of the month. Up to three speakers share their experiences in an engaging way to an audience. Evaluators, like Roan, give feedback. And all members give each other support.
Since joining, Mathur has cut his filler words in half; the group has someone in an official capacity — the grammarian — who counts. Mathur, whose native language is Hindi, said his English fluency has improved. And, perhaps most importantly, his confidence has grown. He plans to speak during the upcoming competition.
“It’s helped me with organizing my thoughts so I can think and communicate more clearly. When people understand you and listen, it makes you feel more confident,” he said. “I joined Toastmasters thinking about future employers and clients, but it’s helped me grow in my personal life too.”