Figures of speech to meet in Rochester

Dr. Amit Ghosh, of Rochester, conquered his fear of public speaking in Toastmasters. The organization holds its annual district conference in Rochester this month.

Dr. Amit Ghosh didn't have many public speaking opportunities growing up in India, but the one speech he was required to give, in 11th grade, left an unforgettable impression.

"Afterwards, I made a vow. I would not put myself in that situation again," he said.

What Ghosh experienced is not uncommon. As many as 75 percent of people suffer from glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking. It's the No. 1 fear, according to many reports, greater even than the fear of death.

Ghosh has put the memory of his first speech behind him and has had numerous opportunities to present to audiences around the world as director of international practice for Mayo Clinic.

"Public speaking is never easy," he said. "But it's not impossible; it's a learnable skill."


Ghosh attributes his speaking prowess to his membership in Toastmasters International, the non-profit educational organization which helps club members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills. Currently, there are 313,000 members in 14,000 clubs in 126 countries.

Toastmasters International will celebrate its 90th year at its annual fall conference, held Friday and Saturday at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. The conference is open to the public, but registration is required.

"We are expecting about 300 members and nearly 100 guests to attend," said Ravi Rai, public relations officer of District 6 Toastmasters.

The two-day schedule includes humorous and table topic speech contests as well as educational sessions. Keynote speaker is first vice president of Toastmasters International, Mike Storkey.

Locally, there are 12 Toastmaster clubs in Rochester. Nine are open to the public, and each club has approximately 20 members. Some clubs meet weekly, others once a month.

"If interested in joining, it is helpful to visit a club first," Rai said. "Some are corporate, some meet at times that may not fit your schedule, so it's best to locate a club through the website and attend a meeting as a visitor before applying for membership."

He explained that the general format of the clubs is similar. Meetings are comprised of speeches, one-minute impromptu speaking experiences and evaluations to the speakers.

"Toastmasters addresses the fear of public speaking through practice. The more you speak, every step you take, you overcome the fear," Rai said. "Through the encouragement of constructive feedback, you start to build the basic skills of public speaking."


While some members remain in a club for just six months, those who stay in Toastmasters for years find opportunities for leadership roles to be a great benefit.

Conference co-chair Jean Pearson has been a Toastmaster for 22 years and is currently in six different clubs. She said she originally joined Toastmasters to help her respond knowledgably and succinctly in phone conversations at work.

"I never had much trouble with public speaking if given time to prepare, but when people at work would call with questions, I realized I needed to learn the skills for quickly giving clear and helpful responses to them," she said.

Pearson said she remained in Toastmasters because she enjoys helping others grow in their speaking and leadership skills.

"There are both formal and informal ways to mentor others within a club. It's enjoyable for me to help others reach their goals; to help them be more successful," she said.

Dr. Ghosh recently received the district Toastmaster of the Year award, presented annually to just one of the more than 5,000 club members.

"In my 2 ½ years with Toastmasters, I've given more than 60 speeches," he said. "I'm a more confident speaker and a better listener, which has helped in my professional life as well. I wish I had joined earlier."

What To Read Next
Get Local