Student organization hosts weekly public speaking forum

Jameson Pitts

Students delivered speeches about “the fear of missing out” at a UT Sciences Toastmasters meeting Friday to strengthen public speaking skills.

Katia Hougaard, plant biology senior and president of UT Sciences Toastmasters, said the club offers students speaking practice that they might not get in their classes.
“Our club mission fills a void for a lot of people in the sciences,” Hougaard said. “For scientists, Toastmasters is great training for giving presentations.”

UT Sciences Toastmasters is one of the University’s chapters of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit which supports communication and leadership clubs around the world. The chapter has grown to welcome members from all majors, not only sciences, since it was founded.

“People of all backgrounds can learn to be professional communicators,” Hougaard said. “We make public speaking as nonthreatening as possible.”

Houggard said she joined Toastmasters to become better at giving research presentations. She said the experience helped her friend to develop public-speaking skills that helped to get her into medical school.

“Public speaking club­ — that sounds very intimidating,” Hougaard said. “But I came around and realized that people did it with a great sense of humor, and it was fun. I was hooked.”
Pharmaceutical sciences graduate student Tolani Ogunsanya, who facilitated this week’s meeting, asked all of the international members to raise their hands. More than a third of the participants responded.

“Another important focus is helping international students become adjusted [to UT],” Hougaard said. “Many come to hone their English skills.”

Shiyao Cai, quantitative methods and educational psychology graduate student, delivered an icebreaker speech about the experiences which lead her to immigrate to the U.S. from China. She said in her speech she developed a new international perspective after showing students from New York University around Shanghai.

“We ate food that I thought was pretty common,” Cai said. “But they thought it was unbelievable.”

At the impromptu-speaking portion of the evening, Hougaard asked members to give two-minute speeches connecting their experiences to the fear of missing out, or ‘FOMO,’ the evening’s theme.  Luis Taboada, chemical engineering junior, explained how moving from Mexico and traveling abroad helped him overcome this fear.

“I think the cure for FOMO is individual motivation,” Taboada said. “For some, it takes a lot to get out of your comfort zone.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, the speakers critiqued each other on their English grammar and style of delivery, and were given tips to improve.