University Raises Fearless Public Speakers

Malcolm McFarlane recites 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 to himself before presenting in front of an audience to prevent stage fright.

Like McFarlane, many students dislike doing class presentations because they must speak in front of an audience. With sweaty hands and trembling legs, students are often challenged with public speaking assignments.

McFarlane, a fourth-year political science student from West Palm Beach, is no stranger to glossophobia: fear of public speaking. He faces his fears at Florida A&M’s Toast of 1887 meetings.

“I plan on becoming a lawyer and know public speaking is going to be involved with my future professional goals,” McFarlane said. “I had my expectations high in search for a tool I could use to tend to my public speaking woes, and then I found Toast of 1887.”

The Toast of 1887 is a non-profit organization; regular meetings consist of experimental learning with friendly impromptu speaking exercises. Members are even given a manual to learn how to critique their own speech. Other members that are supportive with no negativity give verbal evaluations to the speakers.

Olivia Jones, the sponsor for FAMU’s Toast of 1887 said the club breaks students out of their shell and get them to a place where they can fearlessly articulate how they feel.

“The goal is to improve speaking and confidence among an audience,” said Jones. “Students need to face their fears of public speaking.”

McFarlane said although he has only been a member of the club since the summer, he has already made progress in his public speaking abilities.

Former division head of the Tallahassee club of Southwood’s Toast Master Melisa Floriolli said although it is not an easy task that can be taught overnight, joining the club is an opportunity that students should take advantage of.

“There is no proven special remedy to get more comfortable with public speaking, but there is hope with repetition,” Floriolli expressed. “Everyone is welcome to polish their own craft by positive feedback after a speech or to get the confidence they need to be a more comfortable speaker.”

Toast of 1887’s meetings are every Thursday night from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. in Benjamin Banneker’s Eli Lilly Sun Room.