By Kyle Woosley

As a college student, public speaking is something nearly everyone experiences at some point during one’s educational career. But for many, the thought of speaking in front of a group of people can be very frightening.

If you’re one of those people and are looking to expand your communication and leadership skills, EKU Toastmasters may be the place for you.

EKU Toastmasters is based off the non-profit organization Toastmasters International which, according to its website, currently has more than 270,000 members worldwide.

Westley Williams, 23, engineering and physics major from West Liberty and president of EKU Toastmasters, said he became involved in the club after first being involved with the Lexington Leadership Club. After scheduling conflicts, he began recruiting in September. The club currently has 12 members.

Williams said he thinks the organization offers a mutually supportive environment to help your public speaking abilities reach their full potential.

“They need that [environment] to help themselves develop, mentally and socially,” Williams said.

At each weekly meeting, Williams said he emails members of the club with the role they will play for the upcoming week. Roles range from grammarian, evaluator, approximately three speakers and “Ah”-counters.

During speeches, other members of the group will evaluate the speaker based on a general public speaking criterion.

“They [the evaluators] know how to give you constructive criticism without making it sound bad,” said Aliena Howard, 21, special education in science major from Independence and vice president of membership for EKU Toastmasters.

Even though the public speaking can be horrifying to some, Howard said she encourages other students to challenge themselves and get involved.

“I used to have stage fright,” Howard said. “If I can improve my communication and leadership skills without a bunch of people staring at me, then that sounds great.”

There are many reasons to get involved in Toastmasters, Williams said, the most important of which is the career advantage of knowing these communication and leadership skills can help you.

“Often times, people get stuck, mainly because they need to develop their communication and leadership skills to get those advantages,” Williams said.

Williams cited himself as an example of why EKU Toastmasters is a beneficial club for students in any area of study.

“I’m the president of EKU Toastmasters, but two years ago, it was hard for me to get up in front of speech class,” he said.

Williams added that he is currently using techniques he has learned since joining the Toastmasters organization in a physics research paper.

Members said the organization is currently looking to branch out by visiting another Toastmasters group located in Paintsville and hopes to host public speaking events in the near future. They are also looking to compete in speech communication competitions at the district, division and, eventually, the national level.

Jamie Speake, 22, broadcasting major from Lancaster, said as vice president of public relations for EKU Toastmasters, she hopes to make other students aware of the club through public solicitation.

“Maybe, when it’s warm, get us out on Powell Corner giving speeches,” Speake said.

The club welcomes members from all majors. Speake said all members differ in their abilities to speak publicly.

“Everybody should come to Toastmasters, even if you’re petrified of speaking,” she said. “There are people who are terrified, and people, like me, who could talk to a wall.”

Howard said the hardest part is convincing others the organization is a great opportunity and is currently brainstorming ways to market the club to other students.

“Overall, our main mission is to let people know about it and get involved,” Williams said.

Eastern’s Student Government Association is currently offering free dues to the first 20 members to sign up for EKU Toastmasters. If you are interested in joining, the club meets at 5:30 p.m. every Thursday in Room 128 of the library. International dues are $56, plus an extra $10 every six months for club dues.