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A Toast To A New Toastmasters Club
Durham, NC - Tom Katsouleas, dean of the Pratt School of Engineering, leaned on the podium and smiled at the audience.
He had just been made an honorary member of "PRATTically Speaking," the latest Toastmasters International Club to form at Duke, and now it was time for the toast.
"I'm not usually nervous speaking in public," he said. "But I've never been asked to speak to an organization that is all about public speaking."
Drawing on his Greek heritage, Katsouleas lifted his glass and, pulling from his father's favorite toast, said "Viva ta Proto - To the First. And may this modest first toast for PRATTically Speaking be the start of something enduring for the Pratt Community."
The PRATTically Speaking Toastmasters Club is the third Toastmasters club at Duke. It joins the Blue Devil Toastmaster Club and the Duke Toastmasters Club in helping people improve their communication and leadership skills in a friendly atmosphere. The clubs meet at varying times and locations and are open to anyone at Duke or in the community.
Members of Toastmasters receive a "Competent Communicator" curriculum that helps them develop speaking skills through a series of 10 short speeches. In meetings, two to three members offer prepared speeches, while others take leadership roles, including the toastmaster (the emcee for the meeting), humorist, timer, speech evaluator and "um" counter.
Sally Allison, Duke's assistant director of recruitment and manager of the Professional Development Institute, said Toastmasters is atop the list of opportunities she shares with staff as a development tool.
"Learning how to better present oneself, how to speak without fillers such as `um' or `you know' and developing poise and confidence in front of a group are skills that all of us can use, no matter what job we are in," she said.
The PRATTically Speaking Toastmasters Club started meeting at the Pratt School in September under the leadership of club president Jim Gaston, director of the Smart Home Program. He also helped launch the Duke Toastmasters Club in 1998. The March 29 party marked the official recognition of the PRATTically Speaking club by the Toastmasters International Organization.
Meg Barker, a staff assistant in the Dean's Office at Pratt, serves as the vice president for public relations for the new club. She has given several five-minute speeches on topics ranging from the importance of organization to the benefits of sustainability efforts at Duke. She said public speaking is improving her confidence.
"Most of us are fairly new to public speaking, so we are exploring techniques together," she said. "The feedback is given in such a supportive manner that you can't help but learn."
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