Public speaking can be an important skill for college students, yet there are few classes offered to help develop it. Trojan Speech is an organization dedicated to helping students improve their public speaking skills at USC, and is the only Toastmaster Organization club. Toastmaster is a nonprofit designed to help improve leadership and communication among students.
“The club is really beneficial in overcoming a public speaking fear … and [becoming] more confident,” said Gozde Barim, president of Trojan Speech. “Mentors and manuals help us be better communicators and better leaders, which is very important to job applications and any career.”
The club meets every Wednesday, with the Toastmaster, the leader of the meeting, introducing speakers and guests. Then, table topics are announced, and people are picked randomly to give impromptu two-minute speeches based on the topic and questions. Afterwards, volunteers give speeches, and the club provides critiques for their improvement.
“We have a new team this year; every last day of the month we have a business team meeting,” Barim said. “In that meeting, table topics are most common interview questions since most of the senior members are about to find jobs or doing interviews with companies. It’s very useful for them to practice the questions over and over again.”
The club strives to improve its members’ speaking abilities with board members, mentorship programs and area directors available for help. Positions like the Grammarian takes note of the language and word choice in speeches and points out mistakes. Another person keeps track of time to make sure the speech is concise and thorough.
Trojan Speech is part of the worldwide organization Toastmasters International. To join Trojan Speech, students must have a membership with Toastmasters, which can be done online or in-person at Trojan Speech meetings. After joining, students get two manuals — one for leadership and one for communication. Each has instructions for tasks to complete in order to achieve mastery in that subject.
For instance, in the competent communicator manual, the first task, called the Icebreaker, is to prepare a four to six minute-long speech to introduce members to the group. There are a total of 10 speeches a member must complete before reaching the advanced level.
“The other speeches have some objectives you need to fulfill in order to be done with that task,” Barim said. “Some speeches require voice variety, changing your voice tone, some are related to organization, the structure of your speech [and] some have objectives related to [the] content of the speech, whether it is persuasive, informative or humorous.”
Originally, only graduate students could join Trojan Speech, but the organization was opened to all students two years ago. The meetings are open to guests and prospective students, but only members can give speeches or participate in the exercises.
However, Trojan Speech plans to have an open house next semester for anyone interested in the organization. It will hold a sample meeting that will allow non-members to speak and receive feedback.
Barim also plans to hold a speech contest on Nov. 29, Trojan Speech’s last meeting of the semester, which will be open to all USC students. Contestants will give speeches, and the club will evaluate the speech to vote on a winner.