Toastmasters UPB (TC, 2017-2019)
- Project Type Public Speaking Club
- Headquarter UPB - CAMPUS building
- Period Sep 2017 - Jul 2019
- My Role Co-Founder & Investor
- Number of members 25-40
- Skills developed Public Speaking, Negotiation Skills
Toastmasters UPB is a club, member of Toastmasters International with the purpose of developing public speaking abilities in technical students, focused mainly on those from Universitatea Politehnica of Bucharest, by promoting 4 essential values: respect, integrity, service, excellency.
The club proudly supports engineering students to develop their personal skills such as leadership and public speaking by following the prestigious methodology of Toastmasters International.
Although the club was dedicated to the students of UPB, we even had some members outside of the university (some graduates as well). In any case, most members were students of ETTI, especially members of our local NGO (LSE) or students enrolled in the Software Summer School by TC.
The club met on their weekly sessions, to practice their presentation and pitching skills in front of the other members or guests.
I realized that communication is a very important aspect of an engineer’s life and most of my career growth relied on public speaking. Due to this, I understood that the more you make an idea public, the more it becomes yours. What is more, publicly presenting ideas or passing on your knowledge helps you to meet more people who share the same interests as you. All this motivated me to co-found a public speaking club in our university (Toastmasters UPB) to support students in developing their soft skills.
The founding team
The TM UPB initiative was started by Paula (the founder) and (later) 4 other investors - who supported the payments for TM licenses and other administrative costs, who joined as co-founders (organisational diagram)
- myself - main investor
- Eduard Popovici - ETTI professor & academic partner
- Otilia - TM officer
- Diana - former LSE president
The Story of Toastmasters UPB
It all started in 2016 when my colleague and LSE‘s mentee (Paula) started a debate club within the NGO as part of her candidacy run as the vice president of the organisation. She later became the president of the NGO as well as my student for her bachelor engineering diploma.
While she was constantly looking to create new projects and improve her work, she came up with the idea of transforming the local debate club into UPB’s Toastmasters franchise at university scale.
But raising funds to pay for the licenses was quite difficult at the beginning and each student paying for their license was a risk to diminish the number of members from the start. At that point, Paula approached me, not only as a mentor, but as a friend as well, to ask for some advice on how to move the debate club to the next level. So I came up with the idea of a 30-70 membership fee as follows:
- each member has to pay only 30% of the membership fee only (not zero, but small enough just to engage them and still keep the price affordable)
- each investor should pay 70% for each member (while we can also pitch to the investors that they can gain visibility through the club, LSE and UPB social media channels, as well as help developing a student’s and later, a potential employee’s skills)
- each potential member can come with their own investor (just to distribute the effort to find investors)
And so, I joined as the first investor and soon became the main investor after another future investor retired before opening the club for personal reasons – I paid additional contributions as well to cover that. It was also part of the plan, as having at least one investor who trusted her idea, should have been hypothetically easier for the initiator (Paula) to convince others. And together we managed to convince to join:
- one of our ETTI professors, Eduard Popovici, who was generally known for being open and supportive of students’ initiatives; he was also a partner in other projects developed by LSE as well as my diploma’s scientifical coordinator
- Otilia, our colleague from LSE who trusted the idea from the beginning and even got involved in the club’s internal affairs at executive level
- Diana, former president of LSE and coordinator of another public-speaking related project (TEDxUPB)
With their support, the new club was officially born under Paula‘s presidency. After that, she became the president of LSE and handed over the leadership of the club to her mentee, Daniela. Later on, both of them became my students for their bachelor’s diplomas and so, the story of a cross-generation fruitful collaboration continued, generating lots of projects and producing many skilled engineers.
One of the greatest achievements of public speaking was the moment when the co-founder and initiator of TM UPB delivered a speech (recorded by SigmaTV) on the anniversary of 200 years of existence of UPB, in the presence of the president of Romania (Klaus Iohannis, 2018) – an important event of her personal life, of our university, of our NGO and of our club for having a representative there and for myself (as a contributor of the monologue’s text).
I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to be part of this and I am looking forward to other collaborations and collaborators following this model. In order to express the model clearly (and my ideas, in general) I always prefer to come up with a diagram.
My initial interview as co-founder
1. Why did you choose to invest in such a concept?
I believe in a model in which the faculty must provide the fundamental technical training and in which each student chooses for themselves how they invest in their own personal development. In this way, the chances increase that each student is able to learn as much as possible from what they really want, ensuring for themselves a most efficient way of spending their studency and perhaps even considering some of the activities as ways to spend their free time.
But in order for all this to happen, they must first have access to as many opportunities as possible. And that’s why I’m investing in Toastmasters – I want to help create these opportunities, grow communities, and develop educational models that will lead to a better society in the future.
2. How big do you think the impact is on those who go through the Toastmasters experience?
During the career of an engineer, communication is at least as important as technical expertise – the better you understand a problem, the better the chance of finding a better solution is. And the mission of an engineer is to innovate. But not all people are open to the new, not everyone understands and accepts the new. And in order to impose new concepts, it is essential that the engineer knows how to convey these things in order to be convincing. That leaves those who go through the Toastmasters experience.
3. What are the ingredients of a successful session?
First of all, I would like to mention that by a successful session I mean a productive session. And the most important thing for a productive session is discipline. Having a meeting schedule, a ritual for all members, a feedback protocol, a way to measure progress, these are all things that help to improve communication between members and thus help to improve the learning process.
4. How important is it to be dedicated to success?
Now, I am not convinced that we are able to tell when we are successful, but we can tell if we are heading for it or not. All we can do is get as close to success as possible.
The way I look at it, there is a “mathematical” answer to this question – in order to be successful, you need context, which you gain through work, which involves dedication.
What success means and how much work it takes to achieve it… these are subjective things; we define each of them.
I believe that work is the path to success, and dedication is the speed you have on this path… so it depends on everyone and how fast they want success; what is important is dedication.
5. How was the first meeting you attended?
The first Toastmasters session I attended can be described in many ways – very disciplined and at the same time relaxed, an atmosphere full of enthusiasm, a room full of empathy and respect, people who were very open to feedback. The most productive 2 hours I spent in my last year in a student organization.