Thursday, August 11 2022

Vanderbilt’s Toastmasters Chapter is back on campus, ready to build student public speaking skills, one meeting at a time.

A Vanderbilt Toastmasters club reunion on Zoom (Screenshot by Mackenzie Moore)

Most people, even us the most successful commodores, can relate to that crippling moment when your nerves overwhelm you before you speak in front of an audience. Whether it’s a fifth grade science project presentation or a more formal speech, the task of speaking in public is undoubtedly daunting, regardless of the size of the audience or the formality of the occasion. . Where can you go to effectively improve your public speaking and global communication skills? Look no further than the recently re-established, student-run Toastmasters organization.

Founded in 1924, Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization with the primary objective to teach students and community members public speaking and leadership skills. Today, Toastmasters boasts a global network of 16,200 clubs located in 145 countries and currently has over 364,000 members, according to their website. He arrived for the first time on the Vanderbilt campus in 2015, however, after her charter ended in the spring of 2020, junior Mackenzie Moore knew she had the will to bring her back to campus better than ever in the fall semester.

Now president of Vanderbilt Toastmasters, Moore was first motivated to join a Toastmasters club in her hometown outside of Boston after feeling her public speaking skills were weak. As a member, Moore immediately noticed the value of the club.

“Toastmasters [in high school] It has helped me a lot to be more self-aware in my speech, to think on my feet, to engage my audience and just become a better overall leader, ”said Moore.

Since its revitalization this year, Vanderbilt Toastmasters has approximately 20 members and meets via Zoom at 7:30 am every Wednesday evening. The club offers many interesting activities and offers flexible participation to its members. At weekly meetings, for example, members wishing to get more involved can sign up to become the Toastmaster (meeting manager / MC), Table Topics Master (responsible for an impromptu speaking exercise) or even the Ah-Counter (to count filler words throughout the meeting).

“One of the main goals of our Toastmasters Club is to provide a 100% non-judgmental environment and a supportive community so that people feel comfortable expressing themselves in the group and can reach their full potential” Moore said.

Feedback and evaluation mechanisms are also an essential part of the Toastmasters Club. During meetings, members always have the opportunity to constructively assess the speeches and contributions of their peers, which Moore highlighted as a particularly engaging and interactive experience.

Students looking for a more personalized experience in the club have the opportunity to specialize in a particular “Pathway”. This personalized education program offers a number of specific projects to members of each Pathway that help them better guide them towards their development goals. There are 11 different pathways for members to choose from, such as the popular ‘Mastery of Presentation’ or the more specialized ‘Engaging Humor’ and ‘Persuasive Influence’ paths.

Despite the variety of experiences one can gain from Toastmasters, Moore personally enjoys the way all members help and support each other to achieve their goals along their respective journeys.

“The network of Toastmasters around the world is really strong and there is always someone ready to help when needed,” said Moore. “We have had visits from Toastmasters from other clubs, it’s great fun meeting people who have been with the organization a lot longer than us.”

Ellie Dessart, first year, Toastmasters Sergeant-at-Arms, described in more detail the impact the club had on her. Toastmasters not only helped her become confident while thinking quickly and creatively, but it was an important part of her camaraderie on campus. Her favorite aspect of the club so far has been the friendships she has made, especially as a distance student.

“Of all the things Toastmasters gave me, I am most grateful for the friendships. I fully expect some laughs, cheesy jokes and jazz hands – yes, jazz hands – at every meeting, ”Dessart said. “Each member is really very supportive and makes you feel like you belong to somewhere, and as a distance learning freshman that’s priceless.”

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