Q: Thanks Liang for your talk! I am looking at your LinkedIn profile now, I noticed that you are a toastmaster president, I wonder [if] it is a good way to help with public speaking?
A: Yes I joined Toastmasters, although I was not the president 🙂 . Toastmasters is indeed a great way to improve your public speaking skills, and presentations skills are definitely a very important part of grad school and life beyond. You’ll be in a room filled with other people who are there to improve their communication skills, with everyone acting both as a presenter and a judge (in a very friendly and helpful way). You’ll hear some great speeches from very experienced public speakers to see and hear how it should be done; you’ll also hear talks from novice speakers and be able to critique them to learn common mistakes. Once you sign up for Toastmasters, you will obtain a detailed plan on how to improve your skills through a series of presentations. At every meeting, not only are you learning to be a better speaker, you also hear a lot of interesting stories and gain novel knowledge, and learn about the people there.
Toastmasters also provides you a well recognized global network filled with people outside of academia. One of the things I found hard at the beginning of my graduate student career was the lack of opportunity to interact with anyone outside of my program and my lab. With Toastmasters and other similar groups, you get a chance to network outside of academia, and expose yourself to more opportunities.