Time to get Toasty: Public Speaking Club Proves Important Amid Pandemic

Toastmasters @ FIU meet every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. Kali-Ray Skinner / PantherNOW

Kali-Ray Skinner / Contributing Writer.

As social distancing restrictions continue to be enforced, FIU students are discovering new opportunities to develop skills during quarantine as outgoing public speakers. 

Providing guidance on communication, grammar and presentation skills are just some of the ways Toastmasters at FIU helps students become better communicators. 

“If anyone has problems with speaking in front of an audience or they dread having a job interview or speaking in general in a professional setting, Toastmasters is the right club [for them.]” said Armando Hernandez, the club’s vice president of education. 

Toastmasters Club at FIU is a subset of the non-profit Toastmasters International, which was formed in 1924 and boasts over 16,800 clubs in 143 countries worldwide, all of which share the same goal. 

“Our mission is to empower individuals and anyone seeking to improve their public speaking skills and communication skills,” Hernandez said. “[With] a positive learning environment to increase their self-confidence and communication skills overall.” 

Every Tuesday evening, members of the club put their public speaking skills to the test with a myriad of exercises.

A word and quote of the day are given at each meeting to promote discussion and so members can utilize them for future speeches, both planned and improvised.

The Toastmaster of the week, who is responsible for hosting the meeting, encourages members to use the word throughout the meeting, and emphasizes that students should be aware of how often they use filler words such as “um” and “uh” when speaking. 

Members can attend any Toastmaster meeting worldwide, a particularly viable opportunity now that the world has gone virtual due to the pandemic.

Thomas Giles, who’s currently pursuing his PhD in Economics and been a member of the club for a year, spoke about the benefits of public speaking via Zoom. 

“It’s a good experience to have in the 21st century,” he said. “Video conferencing, interviews and speaking publicly over video is becoming increasingly common.”

For this upcoming fall semester, the organization has planned a series of leadership training workshops. Students can expect to participate in skill-building workshops including sessions on interview questions, resume building and body language. 

According to Jan Tantivit, club president, Toastmasters instills the core values of integrity, respect, service and excellence in a less stressful environment.

“The theory is that when you complete our pathways curriculum, you will slowly gain these core values within the speech itself,” Tantivit said. “This is a more relaxed environment than having to present in class or in a competition. We are here to support each other and grow together.”

Sharing screens, timing speeches and scheduling meets were some of the technical issues that arose since the club transitioned to a virtual environment. 

“In [zoom] it’s a little bit easier,” Tantivit said. “They won’t be able to hear what everybody else said earlier, while in Zoom I can message them in a sentence [what they missed].”

Both Herandez and Tantivit agree that learning the technique of online communication is a necessity for the “new normal”.  

“I’m pretty sure that Zoom meetings and video conferencing meetings are going to be the norm past the pandemic,” Hernandez said. “Toastmasters is a good opportunity to give people a chance to develop skills such as looking at the camera when you’re speaking.”

Toastmasters meet every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. For more information, follow their Facebook page at: Toastmasters at FIU Business or Instagram @toastmasters_fiu.