Toastmasters brings leadership skills and confidence to MSU students

Alex Braum, Toastmasters Club President, pictured in front of Jake Jabs Hall Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. Photo by Colter Peterson
Alex Braum, Toastmasters Club President, pictured in front of Jake Jabs Hall Friday, Nov. 11, 2016.
Photo by Colter Peterson

If you could be any inanimate object, what would you be, and why?

This is the type of question that might appear in a round of Toastmasters Table Topics, where participants give two to three-minute impromptu speeches in front of a group. While some of the other Table Topics are more serious in nature, questions like these get people to think on their feet and gain confidence speaking in public, the main goal of the campus club, Toastmasters.

The club is part of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit organization that runs thousands of clubs worldwide centered on the principles of leadership through public speaking. Meetings usually feature two to three prepared speeches, as well as some extemporaneous speeches. Participants are evaluated afterwards by audience members and given ideas of what to improve on and praise for what they did well. “The whole point is to get people to be standing and comfortable,” Toastmasters Club President Alexander Braum, said.

Braum’s first experience with toastmasters was when he was just 13. His dad took him to a meeting in San Francisco, and he was hooked. Though he was the youngest one in the room by over 20 years, he began to shine early on, going on to win the “Best Table Topic” award in his second meeting at the San Francisco group. Since that time, he has been offered jobs and professional opportunities from the people in the club.

Having Toastmasters on a resume can really set someone apart from the crowd, Braum asserted. “When people see toastmasters they know it’s someone who practices leadership regularly and they are able to give back and help others improve,” Braum said, “People bring it up all the time in interviews.”

Club participants can choose to simply come to club meetings to practice public speaking, or they can register with the international club and work their way up through the ranks. Members can go on the public speaking track or the leadership track in hopes of one day becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster, the Eagle Scout of the Toastmaster world. It takes serious time and dedication to move through the levels, Braum said. Completing just the first level generally takes one to two years. The leadership track has three levels and the communications track has four, and completion of both is required to become a Distinguished Toastmaster Member.

While some students choose to go on the official Toastmaster tracks, many just want to improve on their leadership and public speaking skills.  Sometimes, people bring in a presentation they need to practice for class. One student practiced answering mock interview questions in a full suit and tie before a big interview, Braum said.  People are encouraged to try it out, even if they feel anxious about speaking in public. “We’re not here to put anybody down, we’re here to improve,” Braum said. After graduation, MSU alumni are encouraged to join the Bozeman Toastmasters club if they stay in town.

Meetings are open to all and are held every Tuesday from 4:30-5:30 p.m. in Jabs 102. For more information, contact msustudentttm@gmail.com.