Jan. 21, 2005
By George Mauzy
One of the most frightening things in life to do is stand up and speak in front of an audience. Paralyzing fear is often the first emotion that shows up when someone says, "Stand up and say a few words."
To reinforce the fact that public speaking can be worse than any stunt performed on "Fear Factor," Toastmasters International District 40 lieutenant governor for marketing Mike Perez references the timeless joke that says, "Many people would rather be the person in the casket than the one giving the eulogy."
That is where the Athenian Toastmasters club can help. The Athens club is part of Toastmasters International, a national non-profit organization that strives to make oral communication a strong skill for all of its members.
Director of Internal Audit Kathy Gilmore, Senior Audit Supervisor Connie Berens and Director of the Innovation Center Linda Clark formed the Athens club last summer with the hope that it would help them and other University employees become better public speakers.
Gilmore, who serves as club president, says her job-required presentations to the Ohio University Board of Trustees are one of the reasons she helped create the Athens club.
"Many people on campus would benefit from joining Toastmasters," Gilmore says. "I quickly realized I needed help in order to give polished presentations to the board. Not only does Toastmasters teach you to give prepared speeches, it also prepares you to speak off the top of your head with no preparation."
Attending an Athenian Toastmasters club is both an intriguing and uplifting experience. It is encouraging to be among a group of people who are determined to transform the art of public speaking from a negative to a positive.
Members of Toastmasters are taught to pay close attention to details and conduct business in a formal manner. Simple things such as clapping, shaking hands, addressing people by name and title and carefully listening to every speaker's words and gestures are practiced and rewarded.
Each meeting, different club members perform roles that support the day's speakers. Several of the roles include toastmaster of the day, general evaluator, grammarian, table topics master and timer. There is even someone called the "ah counter," whose main job is to count how many times the speakers avoid dead air with annoying filler words like ah and uh.
"The truth is many people will never do any public speaking on a regular basis," Perez says. "One of most important things Toastmasters does is build self-esteem. It helps people grow in so many areas."
The Athenian Toastmasters club, which is looking for new members, meets every Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. at the Human Resources/Professional Development Building. For more information, contact Becky Bushey-Miller at (740) 597-2147 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Toastmasters International Web site at www.toastmasters.org.
George Mauzy is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.