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SU Toastmasters Club helps students practice public speaking

14 February 2013 No Comment

By CASSANDRA CLARHAUT

Guest Writer/The Slate

Speeches can be daunting, but students are fighting off nerves by practicing skills in a welcoming, casual atmosphere at the new Toastmasters Club at Shippensburg University.

Internationally,  Toastmasters is an organization that charges membership fees for workshops that help boost public speaking skills.

Shippensburg’s Toastmasters co-founder and co-president Joshua Rudley was perplexed by how to incorporate students’ low budgets into the international group.

“It was a big expense for students, which was a big problem for us,” said Rudley, a junior triple major in marketing, management and entrepreneurship. “I thought I could probably recreate my own [materials] using their online materials and charge nothing to the students.”

And he did, quite successfully. Halfway through the fall semester 2012, the group formed.

A timed agenda helps members stay focused and everyone plays an equal part in running meetings; though Rudley and co-founder Isaac Lalani are both co-presidents of the group, this is far from a two-man show. They have “Table Topics,” an exercise where each person chooses a slip of paper with a random topic and talks about it for a minute.

“Word of the evening,” “Thought of the evening,” and “Humor of the evening” are a few other segments on the Toastmasters’ agenda, along with three speeches, each being three minutes long.  Students sign up for each of these segments the week before.

The club allows ample room for creativity, and because no one is being graded, mistakes are not a big deal. This does not mean  no one is listening; evaluators critique each speaker on delivery, voice and content by rating on to five different categories such as eye-contact, time, clarity and something called the “awe” count.

Between words and thoughts, a person tends to say “um,” “er,” or anything that shows the speaker may be distracted. Breaking these behaviors and improving skills is “something that could really be beneficial to the students,” Rudley said.

Members of Shippensburg University's Toastmasters Club practice public speaking without using notecards or any other help to remember topic points. (Courtesy)


Toastmasters meet Thursdays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Anthony F. Ceddia Union Building Room 104 and they always welcome new members.

“One of the biggest troubles we have, I guess is because students are so afraid of public speaking, is that they come, they get the jitters, and they leave,” co-founder Lalani said.

Unlike a presentation in class, speakers do not hold note cards or read any material; they speak from memory. No one offers a disclaimer before they speak, such as “this might not be good”; they just go.

Though the group is very professional, members are all very friendly, accepting people. Evaluations are meant to help speakers, and their feedback is not harsh.

This club allows students to talk about what they want in a place free of judgment in order to practice effective speaking skills, learn speech tactics and encourage one another’s confidence.

The Toastmasters plan to hold a stand-up comedy show on April 3 in Grove Forum. Anyone and everyone is encouraged to sign up for five minutes of laughs. Even if you are not interested in participating, head out and support fellow Shipmates.

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