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Schey Sales Centre Chair finds success, skills through Toastmasters

Tuesday, November 18 2014 11:00am

By Meredith S. Jensen
Ohio University

ATHENS — There are few things on this planet that can strike fear into a person quite like one particular experience. Sweaty palms, cottonmouth, lightheadedness — all are symptoms of an anxiety that even one of Ohio University’s College of Business’ standout students had to tame: public speaking. For senior Laurel Monroe, chair of the Schey Sales Centre, the most effective way to dismantle her anxiety was to face it head on.

Enter the Schey Sales Centre’s Tom Starr chapter of Toastmasters International, a non-profit public speaking organization known the world over. Founded in 1924, the group has more than 313,000 members in more than 14,650 clubs on 126 countries, including a handful of chapters here in Athens, OH.

Monroe, a marketing major with a concentration in MIS and a minor in communication studies, first got involved with Toastmasters her freshman year when she joined the Sales Centre. It took her a little while to open up and feel comfortable, she admitted.

“I would go to meetings, but I wouldn’t talk,” Monroe said. “I hated public speaking. It made me so nervous and anxious. It all seems funny now.”

Monroe has earned the laugh. This year, she entered the competition circuit, delivering an extemporaneous two-minute speech in response to a question called a “Table Topic.” At each meet, she was asked a question and a five-judge panel reviewed her response. She won the Ohio University club competition, then moved on to the Athens club level. She won that, too, and found herself in West Virginia for the Mountain Division meet. That victory led her all the way to the District 40 fall conference in Columbus where, as one of the youngest competitors, she met her match and the winning streak ended.

“It was crazy!” she said. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I was up against people 30 to 40 years older than me who were on the national circuit. It was really competitive and an awesome experience.”

Monroe credits her Schey Sales Centre experience with her approach to her responses. “I answer like I would an interview question,” she said. “Being involved with the Centre helps you prepare for interviews and prepare for success.”

Part of a successful interview, Monroe noted, is the ability to roll with obstacles. If she gets tongue-tied during an answer, she just “goes with the flow,” she said. In this way, her experience in Toastmasters completes the cycle by helping her as chair for the Sales Centre. “It’s a lot like my life,” she said. “When you’re leading a big organization, there are constantly things happening that I don’t expect.”

Her speaking and leadership skills have already been put to use in the corporate world. “I was an intern at Whirlpool and at the end of the year, I had to present in front of upper level management,” Monroe said. “One of them asked me ‘so, have you ever heard of Toastmasters?’ People can tell.”

A native of Cortland, OH, Monroe hails from a family of meticulous, research-happy engineers. Of all the schools she looked at, from Columbus to Chicago and back again, Monroe said she was drawn to Ohio University because of the College of Business’ reputation, as well as the ability to combine her interests in the “inside” of business marketing and MIS, with the “outside” of business communication studies. She joined the Centre in the winter of her freshman year, started on the inside sales team, then advanced as director of outsides sales before finally being elected chair her senior year.

“The longer you are in [the Sales Centre], the more you get out of it,” she said. “There are so many opportunities to develop both personally and professionally. It’s a great place to be.”

The Schey Sales Centre’s Tom Starr Toastmasters meet every other Thursday. Time and location vary. All majors are welcome and encouraged to attend. For more information, email aw137309@ohio.edu.