by Krishna Tippur Gururaj, Computer Science MS student
I had heard about Toastmasters a couple of years ago from a friend who was looking for a way to overcome a crippling fear of public speaking. I mirrored similar feelings but due to some circumstances, I could not find out more and join. Last semester I came across an e-mail from the RIT chapter of Toastmasters. I was keen on attending a meeting but unfortunately, the timings of their weekly sessions coincided with classes so I was not able to take part.
This semester I happen to be free during their meetings so finally in the 5th week, I got myself to go for a session of Tiger Tales Toastmaster Club. I walked in apprehensively, got greeted at the door by a smiling greeter (I found out later that one member is assigned to be a “greeter” each session) who realized almost immediately that I was a newcomer and patiently walked me through the sign-in process, handed me a copy of the day’s agenda, and found me a spot.
It was 6:28 PM and the session was scheduled to start at 6:30 PM. I saw people walking around chatting with others so I expected a delay in proceedings. I could not have been more wrong. At exactly 6:30 PM, the “opener” walked up to the front of the room, banged the gavel, and started speaking. And just like that, everything was engrossed in what was being said. I found out that there was a pre-decided theme of the day, which on that day was “realization”. The “opener” spoke for a couple of minutes about it, giving the audience his view on what realization meant to him. It was short, yet informative. At 6:33 PM, he introduced the “toastmaster” for the evening, whose primary task from then onwards was conducting the meeting. The toastmaster then welcomed all members and paid special attention to the guests for the evening. The guests, or newcomers as I would call us, were given a quick overview of how Toastmasters works, how their goal is to promote public speaking and to help anyone hone their speaking skills. He introduced several key positions for the evening, a person oversaw time-keeping, another one kept track of the grammar being used, while another person counted the number of times a speaker used filler words (“ah”, “umm”, “like”).
And then the session got underway properly. There was a range of speakers for the day; one was doing his first Toastmasters’ speech, while another one was practicing to participate in an international Toastmasters competition. There was also a section where open questions were asked and anyone in attendance could go up and answer. This addressed the impromptu part of public speaking and served as a perfect complement to the previous section where speakers gave prepared speeches.
In the end, the meeting was concluded by reviews given by the “timer”, the “ah-counter”, the “grammarian”, and the general evaluator. Each person’s comments were well-appreciated and applauded. There was even a small prize given to the person who gave the best answer for the open question section.
The last thing that the president of the club did before adjourning the session was to speak to the guests of the evening and made us give our two cents about the experience. I absolutely loved the whole thing and made sure that everyone knew how much I enjoyed.
I would love to join the club and learn the art of public speaking from others and was thoroughly impressed by the ease with which each speaker spoke and the way all constructive criticism was given and taken. I cannot wait to go back next week and I hope that this will be an enriching experience for me going forward.