I always considered myself more adept to communicating through written word. The idea of speaking in public always prompts anxious feelings inside of me. It has been found that “public speaking” is the number one fear in America. However, so many professions require proficient oral communication. Even as a pharmacist, although I likely wouldn’t be delivering speeches to the mass, there is an important component of oral communication that is involved; this is commonly seen when we deliver patient counselling on medication. For me, it always felt like the thoughts in my head were racing before I could actually vocalize these thoughts. I would always feel self-conscious if what I was saying could be incoherent to the audience. I figured that oral communication was a skill I needed to improve on. But how does one improve how they talk?
Luckily, there was a student group at the faculty that aims to do just that. Toastmasters! Toastmasters is an internationally recognized organization that aims to develop confidence in public speaking and oral communication. Members of Toastmasters are required to complete tasks in speech writing in order to achieve status of “competent communicator”. Each stage incorporates different aspects of speech delivery (i.e. organization, tone, body language, etc), and throughout the process, feedback is given in a constructive manner in order to foster improvement. Meetings also include activities that allow for impromptu-communication in which members are allotted a minimum amount of time to deliver a “mini” speech about a random topic. It is in this portion of the activity that I feel I have gained a lot because it tests my ability to think spontaneously and communicate on the spot.
There are many chapters of Toastmasters. The one I joined is organized at the Faculty of Pharmacy, however, they do hope to open up the club to the other professional faculties at UofT. There are a couple of public speaking clubs at UofT for undergrads as well, such as the UofT Public Speaking Club and the Debate Club. I feel these clubs are definitely worthwhile if you’re interested in developing your oral communication skills! Check them out!