An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By Lucy Lui | February 27, 2012

Toastmasters Club: Building Confidence for Public Speech and Leadership

Lucy LiuI have been a member of Words of Hope Toastmasters Club since April 2010. I am getting comfortable with public speech thanks to the training offered by the club. In my first year of graduate school at City of Hope, I received an email regarding the Toastmasters club meeting at City of Hope. I did not even think about attending the meeting because I did not want to expose my weakness. During my third year of graduate school, I attended the commencement ceremony. I watched and listened to the speeches of students and faculty mentors during the diploma presentation. When the graduate students were speaking, I was very nervous because I was imaging that in a couple of years, I would be standing on the stage and speaking. How could I be speaking? What would I be saying? Imagining this made me shiver and sweat. My research project was going well, but the graduation speech issue concerned me a lot. Fortunately, Toastmasters Club was there.

Becoming a Toastmaster I decided to fight my weakness by seeking opportunities to train myself for public speaking. I enrolled in the English pronunciation class in the fall of 2009. During the final class session, the instructor introduced us to a Toastmasters club meeting. I was very nervous when I was invited to say something as a guest during the visit. My cheeks flushed. I did not dare to make eye contacts. I had thoughts in mind, but I was not able to express them in an organized and clear way. Later, I regretted this because I did have something to say, but I was just afraid of saying something wrong. Stage fright bothered me. However, I summoned what courage I could and attended Toastmasters club meetings for several times as a guest. I became a member in April 2010.

Award of Competent Communicator Quickly, I received their Competent Communication (CC) and Competent Leadership (CL) manuals. While traveling to Washington, D.C., for the 2010 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting, I read through the CC manual with 10 speech projects and selected an interesting topic for each project. During the five-hour flight, I worked out 10 topics and specific outlines. I was excited and looking forward to starting my first speech — the Ice Breaker. In six months, I completed the 10 speeches in the CC manual:

  1. The Ice Breaker: “Learning Is for Living”, 04-14-2010
  2. Organize Your Speech: “A Desk Eco-System”, 05-05-2010
  3. Get to the Point: “The Importance of Responding Positively”, 05-12-2010
  4. How to Say It: “Words of Hope Toastmasters Impression”, 05-19-2010
  5. Your Body Speaks: “Sprits Exist?-Meeting Grandma in a Dream”, 06-23-2010
  6. Vocal Variety: “Living Your Dreams”, 07-21-2010
  7. Research Your Topic: “Jerusalem-the Holy City”, 08-18-2010
  8. Get Comfortable with Visual Aids: “The Legacy of Lucy”, 09-01-2010
  9. Persuade with Power: “No Complaints”, 10-06-2010
  10. Inspire Your Audience: “Golden Moments”, 10-27-2010
After completing the 10 speeches, I received a certificate of Competent Communicator.


Confidence for Public Speech When the time came for me to give my graduation speech on June 10, 2011, I was not scared. Instead, I enjoyed my unforgettable golden moment in giving my graduation speech publicly. Toastmasters Club had changed me. In addition to giving prepared speeches in club meetings, members have chances to play different roles to practice leadership skills:

  • Toastmaster — hosts the whole meeting
  • Table Topic Master — hosts unprepared speeches in response to different topic questions
  • General Evaluator — leads evaluation team and gives general evaluation
  • Speech evaluator — evaluates a prepared speech that is presented
  • Grammarian — checks for correct usage of language
  • Ah-Counter — counts unnecessary filler words
  • Timer — keeps track of time for each meeting segment
Currently, I am working on my Competent Leadership Training and will finish very soon. In 2012, I will be working on my two advanced speech manuals: “The Entertaining Speaker” and “Humorously Speaking.” It is hard to go one step further, but I want to challenge myself.


I am sincerely grateful for the support of City of Hope’s Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences. I also want to thank Steve Novak, Ph.D., associate dean for assessment and administration for the graduate school and director of the Department of Professional Education (a proud Toastmaster member and Competent Communicator) for mentoring my speeches.

Toastmasters Mission Statement As expressed in its mission statement, the Toastmasters Club provides “a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.” I really enjoy being a Toastmaster!