A voice above the crowd: UB Toastmasters helps to teach public speaking


When Aric Gaughan stepped up to the podium to deliver his speech, he didn’t seem nervous at all.

In fact, as he dove into his speech about research he had done about the effects of coffee, he spoke with ease, grace and clarity.

“I like the ability to share a story or an experience,” Gaughan said. “Something that was heavy for me or hard to deal with I can now speak about on a deeper level.”

Gaughan, a UB graduate English major, is fascinated by public speaking and has competed in speech contests at a club level.

UB Toastmasters is a group for both students and community members to learn more about public speaking, with meetings once a month and events such as an open house with the School of Management. They are working to become a UB affiliated club in the upcoming months.

Cindy Kailburn became involved with the organization in 2010 when she was a stay-at-home mom looking to spend her time helping others. She served a variety of positions on the executive board and is the most recent past president. She said the group is currently half students.

“Things have morphed a lot, we’re trying to bring in a more student base and to encourage the surrounding professional areas to participate,” Kailburn said.

The meetings are designed to help members practice their speaking skills. For each member who delivers a speech, there is another member who introduces him or her and then evaluates his or her speech. Other members take part in the process as well, as someone is in charge of grammar and someone else is in charge of counting the filler words including “um” and “ya know.” There is also a timer – someone who monitors how long someone speaks and keeps them in check with a green, yellow and red light.

In addition to speech delivery, there is also a workshop provided at each meeting, often led by one member. They are designed to help other members learn to speak on their feet with eloquence.

Gaughan led the event at this meeting, inviting students and professionals to join him in spontaneous song writing.

Current President Cathy Schwab was one member who decided to step up and sing along with Gaughan, playing off his Bob Dylan impression and singing her heart out.

“We are here to both improve our public speaking skills and to learn to be comfortable at the front of a room,” Schwab said when addressing the meeting.

Even though the club is designed to help people learn public speaking, it is a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. Aside from the grammar master and the “um” counter, there is a joke master who opens the meeting with a picture, comic or some other public speaking related jokes.

The UB Toastmasters is a growing club that hopes to provide a place for students and professionals to improve their public speaking and stage presence when delivering important speeches.

Tori Roseman is the senior features editor and can be reached at tori.roseman@ubspectrum.com.