More people are afraid of speaking than dying, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
To help eliminate that fear and empower students, alumni, faculty and staff to become more confident in themselves and become better speakers, RIT Tiger Tales, the RIT chapter of Toastmasters International, was formed a year ago.
The club, one of more than 15,400 chapters in 135 countries, meets at 6:15 p.m. on Thursdays in the Student Life Center.
At a recent meeting, Chapter President Abdul Saboor Mobariz, a second-year graduate student from Afghanistan studying computer security, introduced the functionaries – those who had roles as the timer, the grammarian and the evaluators. And the word of the night, “convoluted,” was printed out and posted around the room. Those who used that word would be eligible for a candy bar at the end of the meeting.
Sondus Bellow, a third-year hospitality and tourism management major from Saudi Arabia, gave his first Toastmasters speech – called his icebreaker – at the meeting.
“Five years from today I’m going to look back and critique myself,” he said, standing in front of the room of more than 20 people. “This represents one of the most important days in my life. … I am going to be a great motivational speaker. I want to touch people’s thoughts, brain and mind. Toastmasters to me is that vehicle that will take me to reach my goal.”
He received a standing ovation.
The second speaker of the night was Mervin Brown, a founding member of Tiger Tales. He graduated last spring with a degree in environmental health and safety management and has relocated to Nashville, Tenn., but still pays his dues to the RIT Toastmasters chapter.
“I’m proud to see what’s happening here at RIT Tiger Tales,” he said. “I love Toastmasters. If you latch on to what Toastmasters has to offer, you will grow. I’ve seen so much transformation in myself. Anywhere I go, I am going to find a Toastmasters club. And if they don’t have one, I’m going to start one.”
Another section of the meeting offers members to speak briefly on a specific topic. Evaluations are given, as members write comments about the use of humor, eye contact and the use of gestures.
At the end of the meeting, the functionaries gave their reports: the timer reported if the meeting began on time, the grammarian reported “interesting uses” of the language and another reported on the number of fillers – such as “ums,” “ands” and needless pauses – each speaker used.
RIT’s Office of Graduate Studies helped launch the club and provided a summer workshop for members. Although not intended, a great majority of RIT Tiger Tales members are international and graduate students, wanting to better themselves in making presentations and doing well in job interviews. Anyone is welcomed to join and attend Toastmaster meetings. There are annual fees that include manuals that have guides for speech topics that should be completed.
Sometimes Tiger Tales members join other local Toastmaster chapters, such as the one at Monroe Community College, during school breaks or in the summer. But the experience is the same: a chance to become better public speakers and meet others with the same interest.
“I did my first Toastmasters,” Bellow said. “I’m going to text my mom in Saudi Arabia and tell her. It was amazing.”
Note: Video available for this story