Toastmasters doubles down with two clubs on campus

Ontario Tech University Toastmasters at the Winter Booth, January, 2020.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once joked that studies show most people’s number one fear is public speaking and number two is death. Meaning most people going to a funeral would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.

Fortunately for people who feel this way, there are two new clubs on campus that can help change that.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills worldwide.

Holly Stringer, the human resources manager for employee development and wellness at Durham College, had been searching for exactly such a program.

“Some of the feedback I received from some surveys I had put out to [faculty and staff] in the college was that people were interested in public speaking, creating presentations and leadership skills,” she said.

While Stringer had personally never heard of the organization, she found out that six years ago there used to be a Toastmasters club on campus for the staff.

“But it was hard to keep it going because during the summer everybody would go away,” she explained. “So it kind of fizzled out, and the group never got chartered.”

The new Toastmasters club for DC faculty and staff was chartered on April 1 and all membership fees are paid for by the college.

While the 24 charter members cannot meet on campus, Stringer said they are having virtual meetings on Zoom every other Monday from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

“The name of our club,” Stringer said, “is ‘DC Success Masters’. That’s kind of a play on words – ‘DC Success Matters’ and Toastmasters.”

While DC Success Masters is a response to faculty and staff members’ desire to improve their communication skills, the other Toastmasters club on campus was born from one student’s conviction that the organization would benefit him and his peers immensely.

Avery Smart, a 23-year-old fourth-year Bachelor of Commerce student at Ontario Tech University, attended a meeting of Oshawa Toastmasters Club in the last week of September, 2018.

“While I was in that meeting, I was absolutely mind blown,” he recounted. “I was like, ‘this has to come to the university. Students need this’.”

Smart explained how he’d seen many students have anxiety while presenting and knew they could do better. When he realized that the deadline for ratification of a new Toastmasters club would end in a few days time, he rushed to collect the minimum number of signatures required.

ONTechU Toastmasters, as the club is officially called, currently has 24 members and alternates meetings between Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m.

Smart is nearing the end of his term as club president, and elections for club executive positions will be held soon.

A club charter party was planned for March 25 but has now been postponed indefinitely.

When the campus closed, ONTechU Toastmasters quickly transitioned to virtual meetings.

“The first meeting was on Google Meet, and it was alright,” he said. “But we didn’t like the fact that we couldn’t see everyone’s face. So, we transitioned over to Zoom.”

One of the major goals for ONTechU Toastmasters going forward, Smart explained, was to align the club with the university.

“We’d like to be sponsored by the university,” he said, “so that we have a little bit more capital coming into the club so that we can give back to the students and enhance the student experience.”

Subsidizing membership fees for students who
can’t afford to be part of the club would be an excellent initiative, Smart
added. The current fee for both clubs is $90 per school year.