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Ole Miss Toastmasters: Key to Learning Essential Public Speaking, Leadership

(left to right:)  Wade Meena, Laura Shields, Catherine Hultman, VP of Education Andrea Jekabsons, Secretary/Treasurer Anne Klingen, VP of Membership Deetra Wiley, President Johnny Price, and Sergeant of Arms Barry Barnes.
(left to right:) Wade Meena, Laura Shields, Catherine Hultman, VP of Education Andrea Jekabsons, Secretary/Treasurer Anne Klingen, VP of Membership Deetra Wiley, President Johnny Price, and Sergeant of Arms Barry Barnes.

For many people, the thought of talking in front of an audience or presenting various speeches, of which are constructively evaluated, might come across as intimidating and even a little overwhelming. Luckily, The Ole Miss Toastmasters provides a safe and comfortable atmosphere for individuals who aren’t experienced with the concept of public speaking but are seeking to know more about it and learn techniques to become proficient in the area.

Seasoned public speakers looking to expand and improve on what they already know or don’t know are welcomed as well. Also, visitors looking to just sit in to see what goes on during a typical meeting will be greeted with open arms.

Ole Miss Toastmasters help people find their public speaking voices.
Ole Miss Toastmasters help people find their public speaking voices.

The Ole Miss chapter of Toastmasters International, has been on campus for about four years. It began as an organization mainly for University of Mississippi faculty and staff members who wanted to develop their communication and leadership skills, however, as time went on both undergraduate and graduate students and anyone of at least eighteen years of age were eligible to join as well.

Members must pay a forty-two-dollar fee every six months (thirty-six dollars for Toastmasters International and six dollars for the local club). New members must pay a one-time $20 membership fee which provides communication and leadership manuals. There are no fees to attend a meeting as a guest. For more information about how to join, individuals are encouraged to contact Ole Miss Toastmaster’s Vice President of Membership, Deetra Wiley at dawiley@olemiss.edu.

Meetings are held on the second and fourth Thursday of every month at 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. usually in Holman Hall, Conference Room 230 but are sometimes held in Minor Hall, room BO5C. The exact location varies but can be found on the organization’s official website www.olemiss.edu/toastmasters.

The most recent club meeting of the Ole Miss Toastmasters was held on March 24 in Minor Hall. Eight members of all ages and backgrounds promptly came in at twelve and immediately began fellowship by laughing with each other while preparing for the day’s meeting.

Wade Meena and Anne Klingen both presented speeches.
Wade Meena and Anne Klingen both presented speeches.

Toastmaster president, Johnny Price, opened the meeting by welcoming and acknowledging guests and introducing Toastmaster member, Catherine Hultman, who gifted everyone with the word of the day: exemplar, which means a person or thing serving as a typical example or excellent model.

After this, the meeting continued unto the speech stage. The first speech entitled, “Making Good Decisions in Hard Times,” was presented by secretary and treasurer Anne Klingen. In the speech, Klingen discussed the five important rules of leadership which are as follows:

  • Do not tolerate complacency at any time.
  • You either have to change the people or you need to change the people.
  • Don’t try to please everyone.
  • Maintain a clear view of reality.
  • and most importantly, have fun.

Another speech entitled, “My Spring Break Experience,” was presented by Ole Miss junior and recent member Wade Meena. Meena discussed the spring break trip to Haiti he took with Mission of Hope, a Christian organization devoted to spreading the word of Jesus Christ throughout the nation of Haiti. Christian leaders, also known as village champions, received training on how to provide the poverty stricken Haiti with resources on how to make the country better. Meena also talked about how he and other members of Mission of Hope planted trees, painted houses, and felt proud about being able to tell the people of Haiti about the love of Jesus and helping them.

Each of the speeches were evaluated by member Laura Shields and the vice president of education, Andrea Jekabsons, for any particular strengths that the speaker displayed and weaknesses such as using the words “um” or “ah” that the speaker needed to improve on.

Barry Barnes
Barry Barnes joined toastmasters to gain experience.

After the meeting, some of the members began discussing about how joining Toastmasters helped them and their reasons for joining. Member and Ole Miss National Sea Grant Law Center employee, Barry Barnes, shared his reasoning behind joining,

“I joined when I started working here,” Barnes said. “One of the main reasons why I joined is because I didn’t have a lot of experience doing public speaking. Most of the speaking that I had done was mostly one on one and mainly personal, not standing up in front of a group giving a prepared speech. It was a challenge, but, it’s something that I did not want to be afraid of.”

Wade Meena, who has only been in Toastmasters for three weeks, talked about how the organization helped him go from struggling at creating speeches to preparing speeches and presenting them to the other members without hesitation.

“Toastmasters made me less uncomfortable in front of a big audience and it’s helped me week in and week out know how to produce a good speech,” Meena said.

The next Toastmaster meeting will be on Thursday April, 14 at noon in Holman Hall, Conference Room 230.

Ole Miss Toastmasters recently met.
Ole Miss Toastmasters recently met.

Jocilyn Carver is a HottyToddy.com intern. She can be reached at jscarver@go.olemiss.edu.

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