Mason Toastmasters Club Aims to Create Confident Public Speakers

Posted: May 9, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Studies have shown that most people fear public speaking more than anything else — even death. The very thought of dozens of people staring, watching your every move and mistake can frighten anyone, even the best of public speakers.

Mason will hold its first meeting of the Mason Toastmasters Club for faculty, staff and graduate students to help them overcome their fear of public speaking and become better speakers. Sponsored by the Department of Communication, the new club will help participants learn how to master skills such as leading a meeting, thinking on their feet, speaking with confidence and giving constructive feedback.

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 13, from noon to 1 p.m. in the Johnson Center’s Meeting Room B. Lunch will be provided.

Toastmasters International, a nonprofit organization started in 1924, offers an enjoyable way for people to practice and hone communication and leadership skills. The organization has nearly 226,000 members in 11,500 clubs in 92 countries.

Communication Department faculty members Andrew Finn, visiting associate professor, and Janey Trowbridge, part-time faculty, spearheaded the idea to develop a Toastmasters Club at Mason. Finn and Trowbridge are members of various Toastmasters Clubs and teach public speaking courses at Mason.

“As a Toastmaster myself, I want to make it a hobby to become a professional speaker,” says Finn. “I think people will realize the importance of the club and how it can help them in their careers and in accomplishing their personal and professional goals.”

The first meeting will be an introductory session to educate people about the purpose of the Toastmasters Club. Finn will conduct the first half of the meeting, and the second half will be conducted by Bennie Bough, an internationally known speaker, seminar leader and consultant who is also a former president of Toastmasters International.

As the meetings progress, officers will be elected and a Toastmaster of the Day will be chosen for each meeting. In addition, other roles will be assigned: a grammarian, a member who introduces a new word to the group; an ah-counter, a person who counts any word or sound used as a crutch by anyone who speaks during the meeting; and a timer, who is responsible for monitoring time for each meeting and each speaker.

A typical meeting is convened by the sergeant at arms. Then the group is led in the Pledge of Allegiance. After the Toastmaster of the Day is introduced, pre-selected members of the group offer a thought of the day, a joke of the day and a word of the day. Each member may also be asked to describe their role in 30 to 60 seconds.

Three prepared speeches, each five to seven minutes long, are given by members of the group. After the speeches, evaluators critique each speech for two minutes, focusing on the positive aspects of each speaker and areas for improvement.

After the prepared speeches, the Topicsmaster introduces several table topics to the group to continue the long-standing Toastmasters tradition that every member speaks at a meeting. The Topicsmaster will give a brief description of the table topics and mention if the topics will carry a theme. He or she will then state a question or topic and call on a respondent. Each speaker receives a different topic or question, and participants are called at random.

At the end of the meeting, members vote on the best speaker, evaluator and table topics. Ribbons are handed out to the winners.

A meeting schedule will be determined by participants after the first meeting. Dues for the club are $30 for six months.

For more information about the Mason Toastmasters Club, contact Finn at or 703-993-4387.

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