At a University student awards breakfast last week, I had an opporunity to speak with a father of a nominee about the importance and lost art of public speaking. I told the dad that I took "Fundamentals of Public Speaking" in my undergrad years here at Rutgers and what an incredible learning experience and confidence builder it turned out to be. The student's dad, (who happens to be a minister), told me that he always wanted to develop his oratory skills and wished that there was a local Toastmasters club.
After some investigation, I found that Toastmaster Clubs are in fact fairly ubiquitous throughout central New Jersey, but no such club exists at Rutgers. Further investigation revealed that there are many colleges such as University of Washington, University of Cincinnati, University of Florida and University of Texas that host clubs for students, staff and the general public.
Typical Toastmaster meetings begin with a joke and a word of the day followed by two scheduled speakers presenting prepared talks on subjects of their choosing. Members are assigned a variety of speeches to help develop competency in areas such as organization, voice inflection and persuasiveness. Table topics, which are short impromptu responses to a question, follow the speeches. Finally, speeches are evaluated before closing the meeting.
I've sent away for a "How to Start A New Club" information kit and would be curious to see how many people would be interested in forming and participating in such a club. Besides the obvious skill improvement, it has the potential to create a strong network of Rutgers and local community leaders. It'd also be a great resume builder for students of all disciplines.