February 19, 2020
By Jason Harris
Part of my job involves public speaking, and practicing public speaking is useful and helps to build my confidence in other aspects of my life in general. In my search for supports to practice and build on my speaking skills, I found Orange Orators, a branch of Toastmasters, which meets at Syracuse University. I have discovered Orange Orators to be an excellent resource for me for many reasons. While it is not officially a university organization, meetings are held at Bird Library on the main Syracuse University campus, and many of the members are also affiliated with SU. The location makes it convenient for me, as I do not have access to a car of my own and do not have to use a ride-sharing app or the bus to attend meetings. The Orange Orators meetings are held at noon, which works great for me. Other groups in the Syracuse area generally meet before work or after work. While for many that may be convenient, for myself, I tend to be at my best in the late morning and early afternoon.
Toastmasters in general, and Orange Orators specifically, have systems set in place to make it a structured environment. Toastmasters has a structure around prepared speeches, table topics, and evaluations, and you choose a specific pathway to follow to work on the skills you want to learn. The prepared speeches are probably what most people think of when they think of an organization like Orange Orators. There are a number of prepared speeches you give, such as an ice breaker, topic speech, research speech, and others. I personally am at the beginning of my experience with the organization and have not yet had the opportunity to work on all of these.
One of the most beneficial things about presenting a speech in this environment is that you get evaluation that is constructive, but also helps you to make sure to focus on the positive and what you can improve on. It is helpful to be in such a supportive environment. There are also worksheets to assist in planning out your speeches. This is important for me, as sometimes I have a good idea but have some difficulty planning out my presentation of that idea.
Another segment of the program I find very helpful about Toastmasters is the table topics. These are impromptu speeches based on a topic the “table topic master” gives you. This puts you on the spot to talk without anything prepared ahead of time. For me, this is important because I have a bit of social anxiety and some of that has to do with the unstructured nature of socialization. This is also a good way to speak every week as there are usually a number of questions asked, so you get to work on your skills at table topics.
There are different evaluations you get when giving a speech or roles you can fill at the meetings. The roles include timer, grammarian, table topics master, Ah Counter, Toast Master, General Evaluator, and Speech Evaluator. As someone doing a prepared speech or table topics this can give you some insight into your speaking and where to improve. As someone who fills one of these roles, they give you valuable skills to use. Upon your first time acting in a role, Orange Orators allows you do it three times in a row to get use to the responsibilities, and I appreciate this. This is helpful for me, as sometimes it takes me a while to feel comfortable in a role.
Overall, while I am still in the middle of my experience with Orange Orators, I can unreservedly say the organization has been helpful to me to be included as a part of a supportive community and work on my public speaking, social interaction, and social confidence.