Public speaking club gets business students on right track

by Ahtiziri Ayala, Contributor

For business students at San Diego State, public speaking is a critical skill. One organization on campus is working to provide opportunities for students to become comfortable as speakers.

Toastmasters is an international nonprofit organization designed to help students develop skills in public speaking and leadership.

In 2013, Debra Bertram, data analyst with the College of Business Administration brought Toastmasters to SDSU.

Bertram was inspired to start the program back in 2012, when the college hired a research company to figure out why employers were not hiring its students.

The research demonstrated that, while many of the employers believed students knew the technical aspect of the job, they simply did not present themselves well during interviews.

Having been a member of the organization herself, Bertram knew Toastmasters could help students improve their interview skills.

She suggested the idea during a staff meeting and within a short time, she was given a budget to start the program.

More than 100 students apply for the program each year. However, there are only 60 spots available.

“We look for people who we think will take advantage of this opportunity to further develop their public speaking skills,” Bertram said.

The program lasts 10 weeks and is offered every semester.

Students are responsible for preparing and delivering two speeches. The first speech is an introduction speech that lasts three to five minutes.

The second is a 5-7 minute speech about why the student should be hired.

At the end of each speech, the students vote for who they think delivered the best speech.

Students also vote for the “Best of the Best” award, which is given to one particularly outstanding Toastmaster at the end of the semester.

Toastmasters has helped several students gain confidence. Bertram mentioned one student who, before taking the course, looked at his shoes instead of looking at her in the eye. His transformation after Toastmasters was remarkable.

“I bumped into him by the elevator one day and it was as if he was a completely different person,” she said. “He gave me his business card and told me about the company he was starting and how it was going to give back the community.”

Many former Toastmasters have gone on to great achievements.

The first “Best of the Best” winner, Jordan Harrison, is the chief inspiration officer for Reality Changers. In his position, he raises funds in order to acquire scholarships for first generation college students.

“Toastmasters is important for anyone who wishes to practice their public speaking skills,” he said. 

“It is also a great networking venue. Some of my closest friends are the people that I met in Toastmasters.”

Toastmasters continues to help students develop their public speaking and leadership skills.

This year’s lucky finalist was business sophomore Naseem Kasraee, who recieved the accolade. Her name was added to the organization’s “Best of the Best” plaque.