The Madurai chapter of Toastmasters Club is ready for its official launch next week

Indumathi, a young college student, rose from her seat, took her position in front of a group of 50 people, scanned the audience, and took off. In her rapid five-minute speech on “Around Me”, she oozed confidence. Her pauses and timing, her voice modulation and choice of words, her eye contact with the audience and her body language, the structure of her talk and the delivery everything was just about right. It was difficult to believe that she was a first time speaker as she walked away with the ‘Speaker of the Day’ award at a recent meeting of the Toastmasters (TM).

At previous TM meetings Indumathi had watched young girls and boys like her transform in front of her eyes into confident speakers. That gave her the courage to speak publicly. “It was not easy,” she confides, “I was trying to conceal my nervousness with a big smile. There is still scope for improvement, but I have overcome my stage fright,” she says.

Fear of public speaking is all-too-common. Most people have stage fright and butterflies in their stomach as they pick up the microphone. The soon-to-be chartered Toastmasters (TM) club in Madurai plans to change all that.

It all started just a few months ago when a bunch of like-minded students attending MBA coaching classes got down to talking. Lavanya Baskaran, who was earlier in Toastmasters Bangalore for five years, initiated her friends to look up on the internet about TM. She told them what fun it was and how supportive the environment was in chiselling speaking ability. Overnight, she had the support of Sachin Sundar, Santhoshini, Dhinesh, Jafer and Wahab along with a faculty member Ms.Raji Balasubramanian. The group first met on January 9. Tuticorin TM Senthil Kannan and Chennai TMs Deepa and Sivakumar have lent their experience and support to the new Madurai club. Friends have come forward to provide the venue free of cost. The young group has spread the word about the TM with flyers, marketing brochures and other documents on Facebook, Watsapp, Dropbox and Google Drive.

While the minimum requirement to start a Toastmaster’s Club is 20 members they already have the support of 75! Biggies like TVS group and Thiagarajar group of institutions have also indicated their interest in making their executives and students members effective communicators.

How it works

The TM conducts weekly meetings with existing and new members and guests, in which participants hone their speaking and leadership skills in a no-pressure atmosphere through a learn-by-doing workshop. There is no instructor. Only members evaluate each another’s presentations. The feedback process is a key part of the program’s success. While some members deliver a prepared speech, some others choose to speak impromptu on topics assigned on-the-spot. The exercise also helps to develop skills related to timekeeping, grammar and evaluation. To constructively appreciate or criticise somebody’s performance,” says Lavanya, “is equally difficult.” Members also learn to give valuable feedback that helps others improve.

So what are you waiting for? Become a Toastmaster and let the audience root for you next time you are on the podium.

Tidbits:

Toastmasters International is a worldwide organisation founded in California in 1924 by Dr.Ralph C.Smedley.

It has 2,62,000 members in 14,350 clubs across 113 countries. Of these 1,000 clubs are in Asia.

In India there are 382 clubs with 10,733 members

Tamil Nadu has 63 TM clubs and 2,078 members. Of these 28 are in Chennai and Madurai TM to be declared official on February 15 will be the newest addition.