From aspiring politicians polishing their rhetoric to overseas students looking to practice their English, Georgetown Toastmasters has been providing the community with a unique opportunity for a decade.

Toastmasters, an international organization comprising 13,500 clubs in 116 countries, aims to help its members hone their speaking and leadership skills. The Georgetown chapter, which was formally chartered in October 2002, celebrated its tenth anniversary last week.

Assistant Dean of Career and Alumni Services Jennifer Blanck (GRD ’06) founded the chapter during her freshman year at Georgetown.

“It’s amazing what can happen,” she said.

According to club president Nancy Crowell (GRD ’09), the club, which now has 20 members, mostly pulls on students and professors but also includes people from the wider community.

“Georgetown Toastmasters pulls together such a diverse group of people,” she said. “It’s such a great community to practice speaking and to practice leadership skills.”

At meetings, which occur every two weeks, group members give prepared speeches and impromptu table topics presentations before being evaluated by their peers.

“Everything is timed. We watch for interrupters, things like ‘like’ and ‘so,’ to make us better, more accomplished speakers. Everyone gets a chance to participate,” Crowell said.

Vice President of Public Relations Rodney Fisher (SCS ’11) has been participating in Georgetown Toastmasters for four years. He says that his experience with the group was particularly helpful when he worked as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill.

“I had to meet with people, sit on panels, give speeches to groups,” he said. “To this day I can’t speak enough. I love being in front of the group.”

Fisher said that Toastmasters can be especially beneficial for Georgetown students.

“Some people just want to learn the basics … other people are going into jobs that require public speaking,” he said. “It helps you focus on areas to improve on. When they see that people want them to succeed … that’s really helpful. We’re harsh critics of ourselves, so these evaluations point out things you did well and things you can improve on.”

Fisher said that now the group is focused on gaining members, especially undergraduate students, and increasing the group’s presence on campus by advertising on their website and on campus.

“We want to bring in as many people as possible,” he said. “It’s really benefited us, and we want people to know about it. When someone is struggling or wants to improve their communication abilities, they’ll think Toastmasters.”

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