Here's to Improving Business Speaking Skills
Student Group Launches Management Toastmasters Chapter
Jan. 14, 2011
The School of Management at UT Dallas has a new, um, student club designed to … uh … help its members speak more smoothly.
Improving communication — and avoiding those space-filling “crutch” words — are the idea behind the Management Toastmasters Society. The group is affiliated with Toastmasters International, a nonprofit educational organization formed in 1924 that has a worldwide membership of nearly 260,000 members in 113 countries.
The UT Dallas group is open to undergraduates, grad students and alumni.
“It’s amazing how fast individuals have progressed within a few short weeks,” said the group’s organizer, Dr. Maria Hasenhüttl, a senior lecturer in organizations, strategy and international management and also a UT Dallas alumna.
“We had 26 charter members and have added two new members since then. Students are excited about giving speeches. They’re already reporting progress and getting more confidence.”
Since the club formed in October, members have attended weekly Friday workshops to immerse themselves in the finer points of humor, gestures, eye contact, speech organization and overall delivery, all essential to delivering a successful public speech. Many have learned leadership skills by serving as club officers or in various meeting roles, such as toastmaster, table topics master, general evaluator, timer and grammarian. One particularly interesting role is that of the “ah” counter, who uses a clicker to count each “um,” “ah” and “you know” to help speakers avoid crutch words in future speeches.
“The students recognize that by being at UT Dallas, they have their academics covered, but that better communication skills will give them a crucial in edge in the job market,” Hasenhüttl said. “Nobody would ever imagine that I was a real introvert before I first joined Toastmasters 15 years ago.”
MBA student Czarina Domingo joined Toastmasters to build speaking confidence. She has delivered the first of 10 speeches that will earn her a Competent Communicator certification and has volunteered to be sergeant-at-arms for the club. As she prepared for her second speech, she was both looking forward to it and dreading it.
“I really believe that practice will fix my shyness,” Domingo said. “And I’m glad to have this club to help me get rid of it.”
Club President Alexandra Black, a senior majoring in accounting, had been to some Toastmasters meetings with her grandfather but never thought she would join until the opportunity to help found a new chapter came along.
“I had the chance here to jump in at the beginning and mold it into something we liked,” she said. “It’s a casual environment, but it still teaches you to think on your feet. That’s important for when you go out into the workforce.”
Tim Ditter, a seasoned Toastmaster who has earned the Advanced Communicator Silver and Competent Leadership certifications, served as a speech evaluator at the most recent chapter meeting. He saw plenty of growth potential for students who participate.
“When you have a new club, usually the people who attend are more eager to learn. When you get to a more experienced club and you’re a new member coming in, you may not learn a lot of the things that the experienced people know because they don’t remember to tell you. In a new club, you start learning all that stuff faster, and everybody’s learning it all together at the same time.”
or Kris Imherr, UT Dallas School of Management, (972) 883-4793, firstname.lastname@example.org
President Alexandra Black delivers a speech at the society’s most recent meeting. “It’s a casual environment, but it still teaches you to think on your feet,” Black said. “That’s important for when you go out into the workforce.”
at the School of Management
The Winter 2011 Toastmasters Leadership Institute will be held in the SOM building on Saturday, Jan. 15, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those interested in attending should RSVP to TLI.RSVP1@gmail.com. Registration begins at 8 a.m. in the school’s first-floor atrium. Distinguished Toastmaster Kathie Clark, one of nine finalists in the 1995 World Championship of Public Speaking, will be the keynote speaker. Pauline Shirley, a past president of Toastmasters International and grandmother of Management Toastmasters Society member John Shirley, will be a workshop presenter.
Chapter meetings are held every Friday 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in room SOM 2.902. Contact Hasenhüttl at 972-883-5898, for more information.
Sergeant-at-Arms Czarina Domingo, who served as the “ah” counter at the most recent meeting, shows off the clicker she used to signal speakers when they were using crutch words like “um,” “ah” and “you know.”