Toastmasters member discusses organization, encourages participation

Standing in front of a crowd and delivering a speech would make most people squirm in fear.

For Union University student Kevin Moss, however, public speaking comes naturally. In fact, he says he actually enjoys the experience.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Moss joined Toastmasters International, the campus public speech organization open to the public.

Moss, junior computer science major and Union Toastmasters president, had little speaking experience before attending college. He said he was in a few theater productions but never had been involved with a speech organization.

Having joined Toastmasters his freshman year at Union, Moss now has had many opportunities to speak in a public setting.

“This is one of the gifts that God has given me: the ability to stand up in front of people and start talking,” Moss said. “It is just a love and a talent that I have.”

Toastmasters is not about being skilled at public speaking or comfortable in front of crowds, however. Moss said the organization exists to help people improve their presenting abilities.

Feeling nervous about giving a speech is normal, Moss said, but these feelings will go away only when one faces his or her fear of speaking.

“Get some experience, even if it is in a small group,” Moss said. “The only thing you can do to get rid of that fear is to keep doing it, over and over again. You should keep exposing yourself to that fear until it is no longer frightening to you.”

New Toastmasters members begin with an introductory speech, which Moss called an icebreaker speech. Afterward, members can deliver speeches from Toastmasters manuals, which range in levels of difficulty.

While an individual determines when he or she wants to deliver the manual speeches, Moss said all members have other chances to practice their public speaking skills.

“The bigger speeches are prepared ahead of time,” Moss said, “but we do try to have everyone do ‘table topics,’ which are one- to two-minute extemporaneous speeches that follow a common theme. We have had a military theme, sports theme, vacation theme – you name it. But we try to get everybody participating in some way at every meeting.”

Participating in Toastmasters benefits members beyond growing accustomed to speaking in front of groups, Moss said.

For one, Moss said his Toastmasters membership will set him apart from other job applicants. Because Toastmasters members are internationally known to be confident speakers, Moss said companies – including Fortune 500 corporations – recognize Toastmasters members as possessing valuable leadership qualities.

Moss also said he likes that Toastmasters meetings give him the chance to present in front of faculty and staff members without receiving a grade for his presentation.

“I think Toastmasters is really helpful in that there is no judgment to it,” Moss said. “There is always room for improvement.”

Moss said he has seen a personal improvement in his speaking abilities, particularly in giving extemporaneous speeches and presenting in front of smaller groups. As he continues to speak at Toastmasters meetings, he said he is gaining experience and growing comfortable in these situations.

Toastmasters meetings are held Mondays at noon in Coburn 1, located in the Hyran E. Barefoot Student Union Building. A lifetime membership costs $20, and a $36 participation fee is due each semester.

Moss said nonmembers also are welcome to participate in the meetings.

“Toastmasters is a lot of fun,” Moss said. “And it’s very valuable on a resume.”

For more information, contact the Communication Arts department at (731) 661-5597.