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For most, public speaking a scary task

by Megan Fink
Public Relations
Typical Halloween feature films play on fears like death, spiders and being alone; especially when having to trek down the dark, basement stairs to see what made that strange bump in the night. However, a more common phobia for people is public speaking. According to several studies, people fear speaking to an audience more than death.
Toastmaster Shauna Grant listens to Vice President for Education Matt Chao as he entertains the crowd during the main speaking event at a recent Health Speakers Toastmasters meeting held in Room A-102, College of Health Professions, every Wednesday at noon.

To quell speaking anxiety and public sweating, MUSC is helping its faculty, staff and students conquer their communication fears by hosting Toastmasters International clubs on campus. For 60 years, the nonprofit Toastmasters International has helped folks in 52 countries fine-tune their communication and leadership skills by providing a forum in which to practice and receive constructive evaluations. Mayor Joe Riley recently declared October to be Toastmasters Month in the city of Charleston to encourage others in the community to take advantage of this professional opportunity.
Many employees and students already participate in one of the three established Toastmasters clubs held at MUSC: MUSC Toastmasters, International Scientific Presenters, and Health Speakers.
Reasons why people have joined Toastmasters and what they’ve gained from it vary.
Daniel Harms joined a Toastmasters club at MUSC to boost his confidence as a speaker. “I didn’t fear public speaking, but I would get nervous and make nervous blunders that caused me to ramble through points I was trying to make,” said Harms, a College of Health Professions student seeking a master’s in health administration. “Toastmasters has helped me overcome this, which in turn aided my confidence and overall professional ability in the area of public speaking.”
Shauna Grant, an employee of UMA Revenue Enhancement and Charge Capture, has found some useful tools to tackle stage fright. “Before Toastmasters, I would get nervous,” Grant said. “Now, I know I need to pause and gather my confidence to deliver my speech successfully.”
Yusheng Zhai, a research associate in Biostatistics, Bioinformatics and Epidemiology; enjoys the camaraderie. “There are a lot of opportunities to participate and challenges to tackle during the meeting,” Zhai said. “Most importantly, I feel embraced and encouraged by the fun atmosphere and friendly folks.”
Robin Matutina, R.N., a doctoral student and a pediatrics nurse coordinator, recalled the day she first attended a Toastmasters' meeting, and how crucial that experience was for her during an emotional time. “I attended my first Toastmasters meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 6, and my grandma passed away on Thursday, Aug. 7. I was called to deliver her eulogy,” Matutina said. “I believe Jesus sent me to Toastmasters on Wednesday as a form of preparation. I had people praying for me as I spoke. I would like to thank Subbi Mathur for being so positive, encouraging and supportive. In all the times I have thought of attending Toastmasters, I just can’t help but think it was Jesus who sent me the Wednesday before my grandma’s passing. My sister said the eulogy was perfect.”
Meanwhile, College of Health Professions (CHP) student Matt Chao hopes Toastmasters will teach him to stay on point and focused. “I hope to gain three major things: more self confidence in my general communication with anyone or any group, greater clarity and preciseness in my speeches, and to break my habit of straying from my topic; even if it’s a few extra thoughts,” Chao said.
The MUSC Toastmasters club meets every Wednesday at noon in the Harper Student Wellness Center conference room; International Scientific Presenters meets at noon every Thursday in the Harper Student Wellness Center conference room; and Health Speakers meets at noon every Wednesday in A-102 CHP.
For information on Toastmasters clubs at MUSC, contact Mathur, Ph.D., professor emeritus and Division A governor, at

Friday, Oct. 31, 2008

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