Public speaking contest hosted by UT Sciences Toastmasters

Trevor Heise

Students, friends, faculty and family gathered Friday to participate in what the UT Sciences Toastmasters’ pamphlets call “the spectacle of a speech contest.”

Toastmasters International, an educational organization that hosts public speaking workshops, enjoys a strong presence on the UT campus through several major-affiliated chapters. At weekly Toastmaster meetings, members present a wide range of prepared and impromptu speeches that range from the funny and absurd to the profound and introspective. Each speech is followed by group critique and comment.

Meetings are run in strict congruence with Robert’s Rules of Order and feature a panel of judges, timers and grammarians to ensure fidelity to brevity and the language.

Thejas Prasad, spokesman and treasurer for the UT Sciences Toastmasters Club, said it was important to remember that, though the club’s name suggests affiliation with the College of Natural Sciences, the organization is open to students of all colleges.

“We’re a syncretic group and are glad to have anyone interested in honing his or her speaking skills,” Prasad said.

Rhetoric and writing junior Elie Wu, delivered a moving speech exploring her family’s migration to the United States and the strength she derives from her family’s story. Wu explained that her involvement with Toastmasters is motivated by a passion for people and language.

“I could go on and on and give you an oral thesis on why I love spoken language,” she said. “Through stories and speeches, I’m always encountering new places, new people and new ideas to think about and synthesize.”

When anthropology graduate student Derrick Washington was challenged to give an impromptu speech, he asked how people think about personality and language and diversity.

“Austin is so diverse; there are opportunities aplenty here to speak with a wide range of people and to connect with a wide range of experiences,” Washington said.

The night wrapped up with a brief awards ceremony, where Kalen Braman, a post-graduate researcher in physics, won the first place prize for his playful comedy piece on black holes.

“Black holes are weird things,” Braman said. “If you ever get in one, you should be proud and pat yourself on the back, and while you do, the radioactive, noodle-shaped version of yourself will also be patting you on the back … from the future.”