Unlike faculty, University staff do not generally have the opportunity to speak in front of classrooms full of students everyday. However, the UT Staff Toastmasters Club provides them a place to polish their speaking abilities.
Toastmasters International is an organization that teaches people how to be better leaders and communicators by practicing speaking in small groups. Andrea Stanfill, program coordinator for the undergraduate program Hindu Urdu Flagship, joined the UT Staff Toastmasters Club three years ago and said she has loved it ever since.
“It is a club to encourage public speaking and to help provide practice to be better public speakers,” Stanfill said. “We have members from all across campus and in all different positions in different colleges.”
The international organization has 352,000 members in 141 countries around the world. The UT club meets every Thursday at the Student Activity Center, where members give prepared and impromptu speeches. Some members, such as Liz Johnson, College of Liberal Arts administrative associate, have special tasks, such as being a timer or critic during speeches.
“I will be listening for your crutch words,” Johnson said during the meeting, where she acted as critic. “I will be listening for the things you utter or say when you’re still trying to figure out what you want to say like ‘uh’ or ‘um.’”
Stanfill said the club is specifically for staff because they don’t get as much exposure to public speaking as faculty does, but they still need to be professional and confident.
“It just helps staff be a better face to the University,” Stanfill said. “It is still very beneficial to staff because you’ll find yourself giving speeches or presentations, and it’s important to have a strong sense of confidence when you’re speaking.”
Since joining UT Staff Toastmasters Club a few years ago, Stanfill said she has seen her confidence and speech aptitude increase.
“I remember the first time I did my speech,” Stanfill said. “I wrote my notes on my hand and was just waving my hands to see my notes, whereas now I can tell I’m not as shaky, nd there is definitely a marked improvement.”