This year’s top 8 finalists. From left to right: Allie Zheng, Juleigh Giberson, Anold Mwanri, Waleed Mubashir, Nicolas Muniz Saavedra, Siddharth Bhalla, Raven Wilkinson, and Kseniya Kachor. (Photo of Waleed courtesy: Jason Hang. All other photos: Mikaila Kukurudza and Olivia McLeod/Ryersonian Staff)

Learning how to create a great speech takes more than just body language and projection – it’s about what you believe in. At least, that’s the opinion of Nimra Akhatar, one of this year’s mentors for Ryerson’s Toastmasters.

Toastmasters International aims to help individuals with their public speaking and presentation.

The name “toastmaster” comes from a term used to describe someone who would give a toast in a formal banquet.

This year, Ryerson’s Toastmasters club is preparing for its annual competition called Ryerson’s Next Top Speaker. Eight finalists will compete against each other by writing and delivering a speech that answers the same question: “What makes the ideal human being?”

The finalists are encouraged to take their own experiences and apply them to the big question.

Toastmasters is an international group that was formed in 1924. Founded by Ralph C. Smedley, the program focuses on helping members to improve their communication and public speaking skills. Since then, there have been over 332,000 members worldwide in 135 countries.

Members who attend regular meetings and workshops receive timely feedback on their presentation skills and guidance from mentors to achieve their goals.

This year’s competition saw about 40 to 50 auditions, submitted through online videos. The mentors then narrowed submissions down and invited some for an in-person audition. Afterwards, organizers made final selections based on who carried the strongest characteristics and storytelling skills.

Akhatar, who participated in the event last year, said the Toastmasters experience is a journey of self-fulfillment. This year she is focusing on helping the top eight competitors feel as engaged as she did.

“I want to share ideas, as well as find a way so that each of the contestants can express themselves,” she said. “I want to ensure their personalities shine.”

Every week since Feb. 2 the finalists have attended workshops to help sharpen their communication skills. Each finalist will practise speech structure, improvisation, and engagement in order to form the best speech possible.

Abdul Khandwala is a fourth-year business management student and the president of Ryerson’s Toastmasters for the 2015-16 school year. Khandwala said he is confident that this group can help students become more comfortable with public speaking.

“It allows people to build their soft skills in a no-pressure environment with individuals who are looking to grow and learn as well,” said Khandwala. “It allows us to showcase talent across campus and learn from each other as well.”

Allie Zheng is a second-year business management student and one of this year’s finalists. Zheng said she is eager to learn from the mentors and hopes to grasp a better understanding of herself through this experience.

“I’ve never done this before, so I’m really looking forward to taking the time to step out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I’m going to take the journey to really find myself and do some soul-searching to answer the big question at the end of, ‘What is the ideal human being?’”

The competition is expected to take place in March. 

This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Feb. 24, 2016.

The Ryersonian asked this year’s top 8 finalists to tell us how they are preparing for the upcoming competition: 


Nicolas Muniz Saavedra, fourth-year business management and law and business student. (Mikaila Kukurudza/Ryersonian Staff)



Kseniya Kachor, fifth-year business management student. (Mikaila Kukurudza/Ryersonian Staff)



Raven Wilkinson, third-year creative industries student. (Mikaila Kukurudza/Ryersonian Staff)



Siddharth Bhalla, fourth-year business management student. (Mikaila Kukurudza/Ryersonian Staff)



Allie Zheng, second-year business management student. (Mikaila Kukurudza/Ryersonian Staff)



Anold Mwanri, second-year chemical engineering student. (Olivia McLeod/Ryersonian Staff)



Juleigh Giberson, hospitality tourism management student. (Olivia McLeod/Ryersonian Staff)



Waleed Mubashir, third-year business management student. (Courtesy: Jason Hang)

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