Thunderbird Toastmasters: Public Speaking Revival

By Bethany-Angel Chijindu, Staff Writer

On Thursday, Nov. 30 the Thunderbird Toastmasters club will be hosting its final event of the semester by having a Speechathon at Yount 100.  The club has come a long way since October 2016, when Belinda Chiu (MGM, 17), Andrew Cohen (MGM ’17) and Rachel An (MGM ’17) began the project of reviving the Toastmaster chapter on campus in their first semester .

The two challenges they faced was funding and explaining what Toastmasters is. In terms of funding, because Toastmasters requires that members pay fees, there was the risk that it might make Toastmasters less accessible for students. The leadership overcame this by getting funding from both TELC and TSG to make the fees more affordable.

And when it came to what Toastmaster is, Belinda recalls that there was a lot of education and awareness that needed to be done to explain what the purpose of the club is.  This was because earlier on she would hear people say, “What do you do in Toastmasters…. give toasts?’’

To begin the process of educating and creating awareness on campus, two demonstration meetings were conducted and organized by local Toastmasters on Oct. 30 last year and Jan. 22 of this year with about 15 students in attendance at both events.

The leadership team that consisted of Belinda, Andrew and Rachel, applied for TELC funding, which they received on Feb. 6. By May the club was chartered with 20 members, and during the summer at least three meetings took place with a few students that were on campus so that students could practice their impromptu speaking skills.

However, the club only started to really grow this semester with the leaders of the club taking advantage of the new intake of students by promoting the club during Foundations, at Club Day and having a Toastmasters table at the CMC mock career fair event with Robert Bush and Philip Kendis (MBA ’03), officials from other Toastmaster chapters, helping to serve as mock companies.

The first official Toastmaster meeting of the semester took place on August 31, and since then meetings have been held weekly with many new students becoming members. The club attracts students by being a safe place for them to practice public speaking. Two weeks ago the club went accomplished something powerful by holding an election that saw a new leadership team come on board.

The Kick of Meeting, at the beginning of the Fall Semester 2017. Photo Courtesy of Thunderbird Toastmasters

Although it is a new club, many of its members have already seen a difference in the way they communicate.  It has also given students a chance to become leaders as well.  In Toastmasters there are many roles, and students have an opportunity to get more involved in how the club is run and also provide evaluations for each other. The section called table topics is when a topic is given and students are encouraged to respond, giving them a chance to practice how to be spontaneous and yet still speak eloquently. There is a timer, an “‘ah’ counter” and a grammarian who all pay close attention to everyone that speaks and gives constructive feedback at the end of the meeting.

The Author giving the general evaluation of one of the meetings. Courtesy of Thunderbird Toastmasters

These is what some of the new leaders had to say about their time in Toastmasters: For Apichai Sotiwong (MGM’18), it’s been an enriching time that has pushed him to step out of his comfort zone more often.

It has been incredible. I did not think this club would mean so much to be. Now, I am on the leadership team as the VP of Public Relations. The people that I met are amazing and became special friends. The club has also helped me with my public speaking, I have more confidence, and the quality of my speeches has improved a lot.

Larissa Simoncello (MA’19)

The club has certainly come a long way in just one year, now many students know what Toastmasters is and how it can help them.  Many have seized the opportunity to push themselves beyond their comfort zones and to take the risk of standing in front of their peers to speak.

I don’t like giving presentations or public because I’ll get anxiety when I am speaking but after attending a Toastmaster meeting I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. Thunderbird’s Toastmasters created an environment not only for myself but others as well who are uncomfortable with public speaking to present to one another. From Ice breaker speeches to table topics I have become more confident in the speaking ability as well as myself. This change is because I joined Toastmasters.

Ghazal Khorshidi (MGM’18)

For Belinda the outgoing treasurer and a fervent supporter of the club, this has been interesting and teachable experience about what leadership means:

What I learned was the importance of commitment, vision, and determination when it comes to leadership. This experience helped me apply what I learned about leadership and myself in a practical situation. It forced me to put myself out there, stay committed (even when we only had 3 people at a meeting), and continue to be creative about getting the word out. Also, leadership means that there is a team involved…and this club would not have taken off without the early adopters– i.e. Apichai and Bethany

Going forward, the new leaders have hopes of taking the club to greater heights. And hopefully they will learn from the past and continue to improve and make a difference not only on campus but wherever T-birds are found. For the new president, Apichai, one way to improve the club is to ensure that responsibilities are equally distributed, and the end goal is to have the club to become a distinguished club and continue the work of empowering Thunderbirds with communication and leadership skills. While for Megan Rodriguez (MA’19 ,Treasurer), getting professional speakers to come to meetings from time to time, and also developing the system of more one on one feedback for speakers were things that could be improved on.


The New Leadership Team. Photo Courtesy of Thunderbird Toastmasters

So, if you are interested in developing your public speaking skills, there is always room at Thunderbird Toastmasters.

I encourage people to come and be part of it. We are eager to see new faces and hear about their stories. Toastmaster is more than a tool to improve leadership skills and public speaking. We are there to create friendship and serve one another.

Larissa Simoncello (VP of Public Relations)

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